Nemo’s Eurovision win fires up Swiss advocates for nonbinary rights

Swiss advocates for nonbinary rights hailed local star Nemo’s victory in Saturday’s Eurovision Song Contest, urging the country’s authorities to enable official recognition of people who identify as neither male nor female.

In a politically charged night in the Swedish city of Malmo, Nemo, a 24-year-old Swiss musician who uses they/them pronouns, claimed the top spot after dominating the jury section of the vote to beat out the audience favorite, Croatia’s Baby Lasagna.

The Eurovision’s traditionally carefree tone was clouded by booing and demonstrations from protesters who wanted Israel excluded from the contest because of its government’s military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

Israel’s contestant, Eden Golan, placed second in the popular vote and wound up fifth overall.

Nemo’s victory came a year-and-a-half after the Swiss government rejected proposals to create a third gender or non-specific option for official records, arguing that a binary gender model was still “strongly anchored” in Swiss society.

Sibel Arslan, a Swiss Green Party lawmaker who launched a legislative proposal in 2017 to overhaul rules to enable nonbinary designations, hailed Nemo’s victory.

“A nonbinary person who officially doesn’t exist in Switzerland has won Eurovision 2024 for us all with #BreakTheCode,” Arslan wrote on X, referencing Nemo’s winning song “The Code” at the musical extravaganza.

Her proposal, she said, is now “more relevant than ever.”

An Ipsos LGBT Pride online poll in 2023 stated that 6% of respondents in Switzerland identified as either transgender, nonbinary, genderfluid or differently from male or female, the highest proportion among the 30 countries surveyed.

“The Code,” Nemo’s drum-and-bass, opera, rap and rock song, describes their journey of self-discovery as a nonbinary person, which the artist brought to a crescendo in Malmo while balancing precariously on a large, tilting revolving disc.

The youth wing of the Green Liberal Party said Nemo’s success was a triumph for Switzerland and nonbinary people.

“It’s time that Switzerland broke with its binary gender designation,” the group said on X.

Still, a nationwide survey last year by polling firm LeeWas for media 20 Minuten and Tamedia showed 62% of the Swiss public were broadly opposed to the introduction of a “third gender” designation on official documents, with only 35% in favor.

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