5. Barcelona, Spain
Many other Latin countries could, and perhaps should, have made it onto our list. But in the end it had to be Barcelona. The Catalonian capital – and Spain as a whole – has a fantastic record in terms of its LGBTQ rights. Same-sex marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples have been granted since 2005, making Spain the third country in the world to grant these, after the Netherlands and Belgium. What makes this accomplishment perhaps more impressive is Spain’s ardent Catholicism – a religion not best inclined towards those who identify as LGBTQ.
Those identifying as transgender can change their legal gender without need of sex reassignment surgery sterilization. And there’s a good amount of legal protection: discriminatory laws protecting those of a different sexual orientation or gender identity since 1996.
In terms of the lifestyle, think any other city from this list but with better weather… better fashion… And, to be honest, sexier people… Architecturally, the city is exquisite, and its situation on the western shores of the Mediterranean means that it’s only a short flight to (or from) Italy, France, Germany, Croatia and North Africa.
And then there’s Barcelona’s Pride Parade. True, it may be lacking in size compared with some of those held by its distant South American relatives. But size isn’t everything, and Barcelona’s Pride stirs up its own exuberantly colorful motion in the ocean with its program of festivities running from June 8 – July 9. For the most up-to-date guide of what’s going happening on Barcelona’s LGBTQ scene, check out the Time Out guide.
4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
If you’ve ever been to Amsterdam, you’ll know the Dutch are pretty open about their sexuality. The Red Light District, the Sex Museum, the Erotic Museum (yes, they’re two different museums) have all become touristic hotspots deserving of at a visit, if nothing else. But these attractions are only the most famous and visible remnants of a historical legacy stretching back over 200 years.
The Netherlands was second only to France in decriminalizing homosexuality, and was the first to make gay marriages legal. And in terms of the Netherlands’ social acceptance of its LGBTQ population, the Dutch can boast that a staggering 93 per cent of their population believe in homosexuals being granted their freedom of lifestyle. This marks one of the many reasons why Amsterdam is considered not only the world’s most gay-friendly city, but also one of the best cities to live in for expats.
And the wealth of wonders the city has to offer its LGBQ community only confirms this. Take a stroll along the canal front at Westermarkt and you’ll find the Homomonument: the world’s first gay monument. Shaped like a triangle after the triangular patches Nazi POWs were made to wear, the monument points to three symbolic attractions. The first is the National War Museum at Dam Square. The second is the house of Anne Frank – a young teenage girl who was deported by the Nazis in 1944 to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp (where she was killed) but who left us her heart-wrenching diary. The third point is directed towards the HQ of COC Nederland: the world’s oldest operating gay and lesbian rights organization.
3. New York, USA
It’s with good reason that the Big Apple enjoys its well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s best cities for LGBTQ people. It is, after all, the cradle of gay rights movements and the home of Stonewall; the LGBTQ rights movement named after the inn from where it all started on June 28 1969.
It all began with police carrying out one of their routine raids on the Mafia-owned inn on Christopher Street, West Village. But this time they found that the inn’s patrons were sick of being regularly targeted and on the verge of revolution. The raid gave its LGBTQ clientele just the right excuse to fight back, and what started as a small-scale and spontaneous riot would escalate over the coming months to become a national and then a global movement. So much so that by the early 80s, Stonewall had inspired gay rights groups to form all over America, Canada, Australia and Western Europe.
Stonewall had a profound and lasting cultural legacy. But when it came to legalizing same-sex marriage, New York was relatively late to the party, only doing so in 2011. But that’s done nothing to stem the tide of LGBTQ culture in the city – where pride is viewed not so much as an event, but as a way of life.
Nowhere is this better expressed than in the city’s geography. New York has perhaps the world’s densest concentration of gayborhoods in the world. Chelsea undoubtedly occupies pride of place in Manhattan’s gay scene. But it’s not the only LGBTQ-rich area – Hell’s Kitchen, West Village, and Greenwich Village are similarly thriving, particularly the treasure trove of gay bars that line 8th Ave. and Christopher Street. An entire article could be dedicated to LGBTQ events and attractions in New York, but for those wanting a summary here’s a guide to what’s going in in the Big Gay Apple.