Gay pride is something any member of the LGBTQ community should experience at least once in their lifetime. These events are not just a social and political statement to give visibility to our community and celebrate diversity; they can also become a very personal experience to each one of us. It is a moment of individual recognition and acceptance vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Oh yes, and they are, of course, a lot of fun!
Today, there are gay pride events in all major cities in Europe, North and South America and even in some Asian countries. Some in particular have evolved and grown into a week-long festival, supported by city governments that realized the great benefits of cashing out from the event and the visitors it attracts. This hunky traveler has been to many of them in the last few years, and I have selected three of my favorites. One could argue these three have been established as the most emblematic gay prides in the world: New York, where everything started; Madrid, the biggest fiesta; and Sydney, the most unique. Of course, this is somehow subjective and based on my own experiences, but trust me guys… I’ve been around.
New York, New York
First, you really do not need a reason to visit the Big Apple. I mean, every living human being should go to New York City at least once, right!? But for us gays, this city often occupies a more meaningful space in our collective imagination. A symbol of freedom and actual sexual liberation in the second half of the 20th Century; this is where the whole LGBT rights movement started. The place where gay men for the first time acquired public and political visibility. Unfortunately, this came as the outcome of violent confrontations between the community and the police in the summer of 1969; when the Stonewall Inn, one of the few gay bars in Manhattan at the time, was raided. A series of riots and clashes took place in the days and weeks after, turning the Greenwich Village into a battleground. The Village people – not the YMCA disco group, but now you get the origin of the name – decided then to start organizing themselves against police abuse and lack of recognition, giving birth to the LGBTQ rights movement.
New York’s Pride takes place to commemorate that night of June 28th in 1969 when Stonewall was raided, and all the major activities take place usually during the last week of June. The significance of the event was highlighted following the attack to Orlando’s gay bar in 2016 which shocked the communities around the world just a few weeks before New York’s Pride. That is why two days before the actual march, President Obama in a very symbolic decision during his last year in office, declared the Stonewall Inn a National Monument, the first in America to be uniquely dedicated to the gay community.
During the entire week and even month, New York City wears the rainbow colors and flags are seeing everywhere. It is the beginning of summer and a great time to visit this amazing city. Activities take place all over the city, and particularly in the Village and around Christopher Street. A good chance to make new friends, spot hot guys in tiny Speedos, have a great view of lower Manhattan and get a good suntan is to spend a few hours at Christopher Street Pier. It gets particularly crowded during weekends, as the gays from the Village and elsewhere come to enjoy the sun and to show off their gym bodies.
A new and increasingly popular area among gays is Hell’s Kitchen. Gay bars and venues keep springing up in the area, as more and more gays move into the neighborhood. This can be a good option for accommodation if you are thinking about making the trip, as it is high season and the prices of hotels can be discouraging. The official website of the event offers a good review of all the events, exhibitions and parties going on during the entire week. There is plenty of fun to be had, but above all, what makes New York’s Pride so emblematic is the fact that it is the birth place of the whole movement that all Prides around the world commemorate.
Madrid, The Biggest Fiesta
Spain is like a gay mecca, especially in the summer, and it all starts the first week of July when gay pilgrims from all over the world, particularly Europe, arrive in Madrid for Orgullo (Pride in Spanish). While Barcelona and Ibiza concentrate de renown Circuit Party festival in August, Madrid is proud to call itself the biggest and best Pride in the world. Not sure based on which measures this is, but it is certainly massive as I could personally experience. Also, an online survey was actually carried out, where voters did choose Madrid as the best Pride in the world. Moreover, the Madrid Pride 2017 became the first World Pride event, a global summit celebrating LGBT community and the largest in terms of international visitors. Millions flocked into the city for a week-long celebration. So, the credentials are more or less there. It is something you have to see for yourself.
Certainly, the Spaniards know how to make a big fiesta to celebrate diversity. The country was one of the first in Europe to legalize same sex marriage very early on – yes, over 10 years ago – and today the LGBT community is an important part of the social fabric, especially in the big cities. This is why the actual march, which takes place on the first Saturday of July after 6 PM along Madrid main’s leafy avenue is marked by organized LGBT groups and activists from all over Spain and the world, and to some extent, it feels a very political sort of manifestation. In addition, activities, like shows, exhibitions, theater, films and of course parties, take place all over the city and especially around Chueca, the barrio gay (neighborhood) and epicenter of gay life in Madrid. The Orgullo Madrid website offers all the info about the smaller events. However, the event is dominated by the WE Party group, the local mega-party organizers that have transformed Madrid Orgullo into a massive conglomeration of sexy men and a week-long festival. How did this happen? I personally don’t know. Good marketing maybe.
Nevertheless, if you plan to go to Madrid for the Pride festival, you must attend to at least one of the WE parties. I personally would suggest the pool party – again, hot men in speedos – and perhaps the main Party on Saturday night or the closing Party on Sunday. Both parties run until the next day in the morning and they take place in special venues capable of hosting thousands of people, where famous gay DJs are normally in charge of making everyone dance all night long. I seriously have never seen a higher concentration of hot, sexy, good-looking, muscular men, in such big numbers, dancing topless… ever! At the WE Party website you can also buy a bracelet for the entire week with access to all the parties, if you can do them all. And remember, it is extremely hot in Madrid in summertime, so be prepared.
Sydney, Pride Down Under
For most, Australia is one of the furthest places on Earth you can possibly travel to – unless you are from New Zealand – and that makes it all more exciting an exotic. Sydney, as the most emblematic postcard from the “Land Down Under” is a vibrant and modern city at the edge of the world, filled with people from all origins. This makes up for a very open and liberal kind of town. It is actually very gay all year round. But it is no surprise that the city has become a magnet for sun-loving gays during the Northern Hemisphere winter. Every year, towards the end of February or beginning of March, Australians celebrate their LGBT community in what they call “Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras” as it coincides with the traditional French-originated festival and the beginning of Carnival season in many countries, usually 5 weeks prior to Easter. Please, do not confuse with New Orleans Mardi Gras in America, although you might see half naked people and there is also lots of parties going on. This is an LGBT celebration.
Sydney’s Mardi Gras is extra special and unique, as it takes place 6 months off the regular Pride season, which is in July following the NYC Pride. Perhaps this is one reason for Sydney’s Mardi Gras to be so emblematic among the gay community in the world. You can have a Pride festival during the Australian summer, while it is winter elsewhere. Gays love summer and this give many an excuse to have two in a year. Well… Kylie Minogue has also helped quite a bit to make the event so big. As a local, and global gay icon, she has performed and appeared several times in the past during the Mardi Gras festivities.
Obviously, during the entire week of celebration numerous activities and parties take place, and you can’t go to all of them. Based on personal experiences I would say one not to be missed – under any circumstances – is the famous Harbor Party. This is a massive outdoors venue overlooking Sydney Harbor and the iconic Opera House. The party starts early afternoon and ends in the evening, when everybody is dancing as the sun goes down with breathtaking and stunning views of this amazing city. The smaller and more exclusive pool party is also lots of fun. All the hot sexy guys are usually found there, at a trendy venue located in the middle of the city center.
Of course, another thing no to miss is the actual Mardi Gras parade, which takes place on the Saturday late afternoon, just before the main party – the really massive ending party. The parade itself is very significant and in my opinion one of the best of all the Prides I have attended. It is very well organized – along Oxford Street – with all the different groups and organizations from the LGBT community in Sydney parading in flamboyant or kinky costumes while dancing and performing elaborated choreographies they prepared months in advance, all to the sound of cool uplifting music. Without neglecting the political and activist meaning of the march, people in Sydney have also made this an actual carnival, and the parade is actually lots of fun to watch. Find a good spot early, as the locals come with friends and family to see the event, add to that all the visitors.
Ultimately, for most, a trip to Australia is sort of the trip of a lifetime. At least it was for me. So I would recommend to go there with enough time to also enjoy all the amazing things Australia has to offer, particularly its wonderful nature. Yes… enjoy the parties in Sydney, but if you can, also go to the Blue Mountains for the day, or spend time exploring the beaches around, Bondi – go to North end of Bondi where all the gays usually go to show off their beach body – or Manly beach by a fantastic ferry ride from Sydney’s harbor. Moreover, travel a bit around the country if you have more than just a week. Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road are great options to the south, or the Gold Coast with the Great Barrier Reef in case you head north.
Whichever of these three Pride events – or any other in the world – you decide to attend, you are in for an unforgettable time and great fun. Just be yourself and enjoy. Remember, these sort of festivals are a wonderful opportunity to make new friends from all over the world!
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