“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people…” — The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
I’ve had Conchita Wurst on my mind more than normal in the last few days. Partly because, after months of planning, I have just moved my life to Vienna. A city I am now living in, in part, because that is where she lives.
But I’ve had her on my mind even more because of an interview I re-watched on the plane last week on my way to this amazing city. An interview recorded with Conchita at the Göteborg Book Fair in Sweden last year where she was promoting her biography.
An interview during which she said something I had never heard her say before. Something that has stuck with me for the almost year since I first heard her say it, as it said something about who Conchita Wurst is and why, I think, she is one of the most important voices of her generation.
And it’s all tied up with her past experiences. Experiences she spoke about more honestly in Göteborg than I’ve seen her speak about them before or since, when the interviewer asked her,
“You were bullied as a child, and as a teenager. What does that do to a person?”
And Conchita explained, “Well you get insecure. Obviously. Because, as I said before, I thought there was something wrong with me. That causes insecurity because you think, okay, I have to blend in, and it’s exhausting. And people just have so many little tweaks and ways to hurt you because of your insecurity. And that just hurt.”
“And mine was, compared to the stories of others (in the LGBTI community), not that painful. But it was hard for me because they would call me names and I would not be able to go to the restroom during the breaks in school because I knew everyone would be in the hallway and I didn’t want to meet anyone. I just wanted to blend in. And till this day, if I’m honest, sometimes I would prefer to not be that exposed.
I mean, I’m very self-confident, and I know what I do, and I love what I do and I know because of the fact that I’m not hurting anyone and I’m respectful, I’m allowed to be who I want to be. But, you know, the past stays, it’s a long way till you get rid of all this trash people put on you.”
Then she adds the little thing I couldn’t get out of my mind.
“I have a little something made up in my mind. I think you get born very self-confident as a child, and then you become a teenager and then you become insecure. And for the rest of your life, you try to get rid of this insecurity. And that is what I do.”
Because it’s in the way she says “you try to get rid of this insecurity”. The way her voice almost breaks on the word ‘try’, that made me understand how difficult it still sometimes is for her. Even with all the fame, the adulation, the success. There’s still that little voice sometimes telling her she’s not good enough, not ‘acceptable’ enough, not talented enough. That she may not get where she wants to go.
But see, for me, I know the opposite is true. And I also know how important this makes her.
Because, as time goes on and she speaks out more and more about human rights, (and she will), she can empathize with people having their human rights taken away from them in a way many others cannot because of her experiences as a child. She knows how much it hurts to be treated as ‘lesser than’, ‘different than’, ‘stranger than’, and she knows how much damage it causes.
And because she knows that, she has the ability to look at a situation and see what is wrong with it far faster than others and, thus, speak out against it. Sooner than others, stronger than others, more sure than others.
Of course, she hasn’t really found her complete voice yet when it comes to human rights. Because it comes and goes depending on the situation, as she still has far less confidence in herself and her abilities to cause change than she should have.
But, I have absolute confidence in her and I know, with time, she will eventually get there. And when she does…there will be no stopping her. And she will be that important.
Now watch Conchita Wurst in the Göteborg Book Fair interview in the video below and concentrate on not only what she says but how she says it.
Because that is someone who, with all her success, still sometimes struggles with how the world sees her and how she interacts with the world. And if it’s sometimes that difficult for her, imagine how bad it must be for so many others.
And that is just one of the many many reasons why we need her.