Gay rights and equality campaigns have been at the forefront of the world’s social order for years. It can be said that gay rights is the Civil Rights movement of this era and generation. While some believe same-sex marriage is a religious issue, others know that it is a civil issue of equality and equal protection under the law. That being said, most LGBT community members do not like to venture into conventional intolerant places, where they are unwanted and faced with bigotry. This list is the opposite of that.
With Gay Pride Month approaching in June and the DOMA ruling bringing new light to the fight for equal rights, numerous studies have been conducted in recent months to try and emphasize the friendliest places for gay people. All of these candidates have human rights laws in place to support gay residents and travelers, there is a thriving LGBT community in each of these cities, and the community is tolerant and safe. Some of them even have gay elected officials.
With the growing awareness and social winds of change blowing throughout the world, many cities are competing to become the crown jewel of the LGBT tourist community as that community quickly grows and expands. Places like San Francisco and New York City have been accepting since the beginning of the gay social movement, but what about other, less-known gay-friendly meccas? What about some cities outside of the US? This list tries to sort through and pick the world’s gay-friendliest cities and then order them – an impossible task because so many people are looking for such different things. Alas, this is just an attempt: A simple guide to try and steer LGBT adventurers to places that love and accept them.
Madrid has a thriving community of gays and lesbians, and not just because of the picturesque pleasantness of the city itself. The Chueca district is known to be one of the gayest communities in the world, being the home of tons of shops, restaurants, and gay bars. Even the straight bars have an open-mind and LGBT influence, offering gay nights and attractions to its patrons. The Plaza Chueca is the gay meeting ground, where everyone shows up before heading off to the many saunas, dinner spots, and clubs dotting the city.
9) New York City
New York City has been home to a thriving gay community for years. Since allowing same-sex marriage in 2011, the city’s LGBT support has grown to feature many gay bars, theaters, and businesses in a very diverse culture. The Big Apple – Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn in particular – is a mecca for gay and lesbian couples and activists. The city is the birthplaces of the gay pride movement and the Stonewall riots back in 1969, and it just wouldn’t be right if the revolutionary city wasn’t on this list.
Paris is the city of romance – all kinds of romance. The city was the first to elect an openly gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, who stayed in office for 13 years before recently leaving last month. The fashionably savvy city makes sense as one of Europe’s friendliest LGBT communities, with cafes, models, bars, and shopping outlets all over the place. Its gay pride rally every June is huge and will probably attract 1 million people in the coming years. The neighborhood of Marais is one of the gayest communities in the world.
It may come as a shock to some that Berlin would be on this list, but – perhaps partly because of their history – the city has become the European mecca for gay and lesbian tourists. The city actually boasts more gay attractions than even London, New York, or San Francisco. They elected a gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit, in 2001, where he still remains in office. Berlin’s hedonistic parties and nude parks bring LGBT travelers flocking, as well as their gay museum (The Schwules Museum) and memorial, their bars and nightlife, and their open-minded neighborhoods.
6) Los Angeles
It’s no wonder that the land of high fashion, Hollywood, and glamour is on this list. West Hollywood is one of the California epicenters for the LGBT community. In fact, some say that WeHo is its own autonomous gay city within Los Angeles. Santa Monica Boulevard concentrates its energy on attracting gay tourists with a multitude of bars, clubs, and hot-spots. Besides the open-mindedness of LA and its residents, the city also boasts many events and cultural rallies in support of gay equality. California legalizing same-sex marriage is just one of the reasons why the city of Los Angeles became such a widely accepted LGBT destination.
Seattle is a big home to acceptance on a legislative level (legal same-sex marriage and pot) and on a community level (accepting neighborhoods). It is also home to Dan Savage, the gay author, advisor, and civil spokesman, as well as many other LGBT social heroes. The city of cafes and trendy hotels has a thriving nightlife and neighborhood in Capitol Hill, Seattle’s gay nerve center. Rapid growth of LGBT families has sprouted in recent years, and there are even organizations that help Washington couples adopt children.
4) Palm Springs
Just outside of LA, Palm Springs is another hotspot for gay tourism. This small city has wonderful weather, and is a thriving LGBT community for residents and visitors alike. The city’s annual gay pride festival is a two-day event, celebrating the history of its social activism and acceptance, and the city also holds the famous White Party. An astounding 8.6% of the population lives in same-sex households, one of the largest in the country. With such a large percentage of gay and lesbian residents, it’s no wonder that this desert city of palm trees and sun is high on the to-do list of LGBT adventurers.
London has some of the best nightlife for gay people in the world. It has the largest LGBT community in Europe, a thriving Pride parade, and is also home to the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and SoHo, London’s gay-friendly epicenter, with numerous shops, bars, and clubs sprinkled throughout. Walking around the city, you will find flyers advertising events and house parties and activities, all over the place. Its gay-friendly cafes and hotels are legendary, and there is something to like here for pretty much every LGBT explorer.
Amsterdam is the most liberal city in Europe, and probably the world. It was way ahead of the curve as far as acceptance, decriminalizing homosexuality back in 1811. Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2002. Just as Berlin has done, Amsterdam has gay monuments to remind people of the intolerance and discrimination that was once present (such as the Homomonument, the first such memorial in the world, inaugurated in 1987). Amsterdam has become a gay holy land because of its events and attractions, its bars and restaurants, and its open-minded population. This city claims its liberalism and acceptance loud and clear, for the whole world to hear. And we do.
1) San Francisco
If Amsterdam is a gay holy land, San Francisco is Jerusalem – the capital of holy lands. San Francisco is the world’s gayest city, accepting and nurturing to all of its many walks of life. This diverse city is home to the Castro district, which became an LGBT center in the 1970s before culminating with the city’s mayor publicly marrying over 4,000 couples in 2004. San Francisco has always been at the forefront of gay legislation and activism, with its events and parades and its legal battles. The Gay Pride here is one of the biggest in the world, as well as the San Francisco Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, the Castro Street Fair, and the GLBT Historical Society, often called the “Queer Smithsonian.” Besides all of the annual festivals, the accepting capital of the world is also home to a huge amount of gay bars, clubs, shopping centers and hotels.