Viva La Bearded Diva!

12/05/2014 12:07 BST | Updated 11/07/2014 10:59 BST

And they said we'd reached 'peak beard'! While facial hair pundits were only recently predicting a swing back to clean-shaven faces, a gang of ambitious and creative chaps oiled their bristles assiduously, contemplating the opportunities to bring their politically charged chins to the world. On Saturday night they arrived.

It's been a while since a bearded woman made prime time viewing; I remember my dad laughing uproariously at Kenny Everett's Cupid Stunt with her blonde wig, plastic bosom and spangly sandals - all done in 'the best possible taste'. I don't think Dad would have been laughing however, at the guys in beards and heels who made it to our screens this weekend. And that's because they weren't there to be laughed at.

Britain's Got Talent isn't the first place you'd expect to see an exploration of gender and sexual diversity but when Yanis Marshall and his co-performers Arnaud and Mehdi hit the stage in their high heels to dance as slick and sassy a routine to the Spice Girls as you are ever likely to see, Britain was invited to join a new discussion about masculinity.

Here there was no shame, no apology but an artistic challenge to traditional notions of manhood. Guys in heels, moving the way women move in heels - all hips and arse - and every bit as sexy. Strutting downstage with extra hip swing they showed Naomi Campbell how to do it without falling over and everyone, but everyone, was impressed. Even Simon said yes. The audience was dazzled, applauding open-mouthed as they gave them the Great British seal of approval, the standing ovation.

The last time I felt this proud to be a liberal, free thinking Brit was during the staging of Stewart Lee's brilliant 'Jerry Springer, The Opera'. Back then it was the chorus line of Ku Klux Klan members tap dancing beneath a burning cross that had me swelling with pride, but Saturday night was to offer a double whammy of radical reward. Switching to BBC 1, the family settled down with pizza to join in the fun of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Barely three bites in to my artichoke and caper thin-crust and enter the bearded diva Conchita Wurst for Austria. Dressed in a glittery gown with salon perfect hair and an enviable French manicure, her arrival couldn't have been better timed. Having just had to sit through some nauseating Polish routine with pneumatic breasted women pornographically churning butter in a scene of bucolic sexual stereotyping, she set the contest alight, singing 'Rise Like a Phoenix' to a backdrop of golden flames.

I'll admit my first thought was that Conchita was Shirley Bassey's post-menopausal alter ego (damn those hormones!), so Bassey-esque was the presentation, but Shirley had never held my teenage sons so transfixed. It was all in the beard. I asked them what they thought of her.

"She's really brave," said my sixteen year old.

"I really hope nothing bad happens to her," added my younger boy.

This was an interesting response. Both of them accepted Conchita as a female, in spite of the impressive beard. My younger son had also expressed a protectiveness of her too, which I found particularly touching. I can see that Conchita is threatening to men. Some men. Particularly Russian men. The Russian men, who along with protestors in Belarus and Ukraine had tried, unsuccessfully, to get her banned from their national broadcasts. Russian men who had accused her of creating a 'hotbed of sodomy' at Eurovision. But my two sons are not threatened by her. They believe she is entitled to be whoever she wants to be and that nothing bad should happen to her because she chooses to dress like a woman and not shave, like a man.

Around the world there are people who prefer to exist outside the male/female binary. This is an affront to the bigots, homophobes and religious ideologues whose beliefs in 'traditional' gender relations ensure that institutional sexism and homophobia, to say nothing of the criminalisation and 'legal' murder of LGBT people, continue in parts of the world both far away and closer to home. Conchita and Yanis have raised their chins above the parapet and the libertarians of Europe have embraced them.

Now, someone mentioned a hotbed of sodomy... I've got my pyjamas on. Good night. Really, a very good night.