The other day, someone asked us what the LGBTQ Pride Parade really means to us. Is it just an exuberant festival or a political march?
And are Pride Parades still important to us, now that we’re legally married?
Before revealing our opinion (at the end of this post), we decided to ask our fellow travelers – both queers and heterosexuals – to share their experience at a Pride Parade or gay festival.
Pride in Nicosia, Cyprus
Stefan and Sebastien from Nomadic Boys
One of the best Gay Pride events we went to recently was in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus. This was a very important event for Stefan because growing up, Cyprus was not at all a gay friendly place. Attitudes in society were very conservative, with a strong influence by the Greek Orthodox Church, which says some pretty awful things about our LGBTQ community.
Today, Cyprus has totally evolved and embraced the LGBTQ community. In 2018, it had its 5th Gay Pride Parade in central Nicosia attracting several thousands of people. Whilst this number may seem tiny compared to the multi millions who turn up at the Prides of São Paulo, New York, Madrid or San Francisco, remember that this is a tiny country of barely a million.
We also love the Cyprus Pride in Nicosia because it embraces everyone without discrimination. It is where both Greek and Turkish Cypriots unite as one. Whilst the two cultures have had centuries of conflict causing the country to split in 1974, in our LGBTQ community, everyone is family regardless of background.
The Nicosia Pride began in 2014, and was backed by the government and the EU institutions. Anna Vissi, our famous Cypriot pop singer attended and marched in the event. Since then, each year, the Nicosia Pride has been taking place successfully, with full backing from the government. This year’s had Eleni Foureira perform “Fuego” – the song she almost won this year’s Eurovision with. We were really proud to march in Nicosia with our Cypriot brothers and sisters, and cannot wait to do it again next year.
St Pete Pride in St Petersbourg, Florida
By Jamie from Crashed Culture
In the days after gay marriage was legalized in the US, I attended Florida’s largest pride parade, St Pete Pride. The one thing I can say was that the energy was electric! Everybody was so happy, I can’t think of another time I’ve experienced so much overwhelming joy in such a crowd.
People were dancing in the streets, on rooftops, alone, together, in any way that they could express their happiness. Not only that, but the people were respectful. More than respectful – they were kind. I was with a friend and her girlfriend, and when they held hands, random strangers approached them and told them how happy they were for them!
The Tampa Bay area has a significant LGBTQ+ community, so it’s no surprise that a day or so after they were granted the right to marry who they love, they had something real and significant to celebrate.
With all the color, dancing, smiles, kindness, and joy, I don’t think I will ever come across another time where people of all ethnicities, sexual orientations, genders, and backgrounds come together in such pure love and acceptance as they came together after gay marriage was officially legalized in the United States.
Pride in Amsterdam, The Netherlands
By Karen and Jacob from Wanderlustingk
Pride in Amsterdam, the Netherlands is a big deal. Although there are pride festivals all around the Netherlands, the one in Amsterdam is iconic due to its canal boat floats. Sometimes people on the boats have to duck and deflate the floats when encountering a low bridge!
As an Amsterdam resident, I love the feeling in the city embracing tolerance around this part of the year and it’s fair to say that the parade stands up for more than just a party: the Pride Parade in Amsterdam stands up for human rights everywhere in the world.
Expect massive crowds along Prinsengracht, a festive atmosphere, and locals sitting out with a beer, just watching the parade floats go by. The area near the Anne Frank House is one of the best areas to enjoy the core part of the festivities, as many people will dock their boats along the canals while celebrating. All are welcome at pride although the floats are reserved for those involved with and part of the LGBTQ community (or supporting the parade financially).
It’s important to remember that Pride in Amsterdam is a celebration of the progress of the LGBTQ community in the Netherlands. As well as a reminder that other places have progress to make.
Gay Pride in Seattle, Washington
By Emily and Aaron from Two Dusty Travelers
Seattle Pride has been a tradition for our little chosen family for years. It often starts with taking in a Seattle Reign Pride Night basketball game. Continues with dancing late into the night at neighbours, and then culminates in a joyous procession through downtown on the last Sunday in June.
The streets become a riot of rainbows as people from all walks of life gather to cheer on the parade, decked out in their Pride best. We like to meet for breakfast near the parade route so we can be sure to get there early and secure a prime spot. The parade winds its way to the Seattle Center, where a festival sprawls across the lawn. It’s usually just that perfect time in Washington when the rain finally gives way to the first gorgeous, sunny weekend of summer – and you haven’t really done Seattle Pride unless you’ve frolicked in the international fountain!
Since first attending the parade over a decade ago as a high school student, to celebrating the most ecstatic celebration ever when marriage equality was legalized nationally the day before Pride weekend, to now entering a new era when we’ll be bringing our friends’ babies along to the parade – Seattle Pride has been a staple of our lives in this city.
Carnival, Gay Pride and Bear Week in Sitges, Spain
By Mar from Once in a Lifetime Journey
Sitges has been named by many as the gay capital of Europe, and with reason. This small village, half an hour south of Barcelona along the coast with just 30,000 inhabitants, is a quaint and beautiful enclave with a long history dating back thousands of years. Sitges is also famous for being the origin of Bacardi rum, hosting the first pizzeria in Spain or being one of the first places where the LGBT community could freely and openly express themselves without any repercussions.
Ever since I was a child, I remember seeing men holding hands and kissing in public. And the beaches in Sitges have always been full of people from all walks of life. While Sitges is a party town with 52 festivals taking place every year, the Carnival is one of the most famous ones. Drag Queen, gay men and women and everyone party the night away wearing Brazilian style feathers and outfits and dancing choreographed steps on both Sunday and Tuesday with visitors from all over the world. The Spanish public train company even started offering train service all through the night since many years ago, fetching people to and from Barcelona.
But Carnival is not the only time when Sitges welcomes the LGBT community. There are several other festivals throughout the year including Gay Pride Week and Bear Week.
While I am not gay myself, I am a local and have seen Sitges promote and support the community since I was little. The town is open minded, locals are welcoming and the number of LGBT-owned hotels, restaurants, bars and shops often feels like it represents more than 50% of the population. As with any festival, the gay events in Sitges are fun-filled, party-the-night-away affairs where everyone is welcome.
Pride Parade in San Francisco, California
By Taylor from Travel Outlandish
San Francisco is the kind of place where people go to become themselves. When San Francisco Pride comes around, this culture of acceptance (for whatever you may be) gets dressed up in nylon and doused in glitter. The entire city transforms into a flurry of rainbow flags for Pride.
If you want to enjoy the main events, you can spectate the parade, wander the Castro, or camp out for the day in Dolores Park. If you’re looking for something a bit more intimate, finding your niche is easy, too. There are stages putting on shows for everyone, whether you’re a senior, a person of color, deaf, sober, etc. What I’m really getting at is that the weekend is inclusive of everyone. Come for photography exhibits or drag shows. Wear a business suit, or a tutu, or nothing at all.
No matter what you’re into, Pride is an incredible celebration of love in all its forms and a completely fun experience that everyone should have at least once in their life.
La Marche des Fiertés in Paris, France
By Elisa from World in Paris
La Marche des Fiertés de Paris (formerly Gay Pride) is one of the most colorful festivals in the City of Lights. Organized by hundreds of volunteers and followed by thousands of people, this festival wants to contribute to the progress of equal rights while advocating pride in being homosexual, bisexual or transsexual.
But most of all La Marche des Fiertés de Paris is a day of joy and celebration where people of all ages enjoy life and love. In 2018, the parade celebrates its 41st birthday, starting in the afternoon at Place de la Concorde, and then heading to the historic center of Paris to finish at Place de la République, well known for its activist role. After the parade, the party usually goes on with concerts, food, and drinks so it’s a half day program!
You don’t need to be homosexual, bisexual or transsexual to enjoy La Marche des Fiertés de Paris. Kids love the explosion of colors of this parade and it is also one of the best events for photographers in Paris! If you want to add La Marche des Fiertés in your Paris Bucket List, usually it takes place by the end of June. I recommend wearing comfortable clothes and shoes and carry lots of water and you are then set for one of the best festivals in Paris.
Pride Village in Barcelona, Spain
By David and Auston from Two Bad Tourists
Barcelona has been a destination of choice for LGBT travelers for the past couple of decades and its reputation as a gay friendly city is well deserved. The Mediterranean climate is difficult to pass up and the proximity to beaches and mountains make it a visual masterpiece.
With mild weather, a thriving gay scene and a great quality of life, Barcelona is wonderful anytime of the year. But the city explodes with life during its annual pride celebration. The city hosts numerous parties and activities including an amazing (and free) outdoor foam party as part of the festivities.
The Pride Village includes plenty of stands, vendors and the main stage. Pride in this vibrant, international metropolitan city with Catalan culture and flair is a must attend annual event. The village is packed with cool things like a High Heel Race, Miss Drag Pride Barcelona and even activities for kids. The High Heel Race is one of the most hilarious, where a group of guys compete in a race at the pride village while wearing a pair of heels.
The pride parade, which attracts 200,000 people, is held Saturday afternoon each year, typically starting at 5pm when the city starts to cool off for the evening. And if you like, you can even find your favorite truck playing the best beats and take up a spot behind and walk, march or dance your way to the finish. The parade is one of the most interactive events of the weekend and is one of the highlights not to be missed.
Cape Town Pride, South Africa
By Gabriela from Gabriela Here and There
Cape Town is known as the gay capital of Africa, and South Africa is the only country on the continent that has made same-sex marriage legal. Despite this, LGBT South Africans, particularly those who live in townships, still face some challenges.
Cape Town Pride is held during South Africa’s summer, usually late February/early March. It’s a week full of parties and other events, the highlight still being the parade and Mardi Gras on the last day.
The parade usually starts in De Waterkant and ends up in Green Point Park where the party continues. Compared to some other Prides I’ve attended, the parade was a lot smaller, and there weren’t that many people watching it along the streets. Most of the people attending Pride were walking with the parade, and everyone ended up at the park. The party at the park offered music, performances and drinks, but you had to pay an entrance fee to get in.
Most of the gay bars are located in the De Waterkant area, and that’s where many Pride parties were too. After the parade and the park, I danced the night away at one of the gay clubs.
Pride Parade in New York City
By Allison from Eternal Arrival
New York City is one of the best places you can celebrate the Pride Parade each June. The parade route goes down 7th Avenue and goes past one of the most important points in LGBT history, the Stonewall Inn at Christopher Street.
The Stonewall riots in 1969 were a series of protests and riots that sparked the modern day gay rights movement, after police violently raided several gay bars in the West Village. Nowadays, the sight of Stonewall is much more celebratory and peaceful, with people dressed to the nines in costumes, carrying humorous or political signs, celebrating openly in the streets.
New York City also has a Dyke March that happens at the same time at the pride parade, which is slightly more political and less of a street party. Whether you are gay, lesbian, bi, trans, or simply an ally, NYC is one of the best possible places to celebrate Pride Month for its importance in history, as well as its continued relevance as a place that celebrates diversity and individuality.
Are Pride Parades important?
Now it’s true that during Pride Parades, many people are dressed in vivid colors or quirky costumes. Loud music is often played from the parade floats, while both gays and gay advocates proudly wave their rainbow flag and sing or dance along. It often looks and feels like a fun party.
But a Pride march is much more than a colorful joyous street festival. Of course it’s an annual event to celebrate the LGBTQ culture and to show that we’re proud of who and what we are. But as you can read from some travelers’ story above, a Pride Parade is also a civic engagement, and the goal is to address public concerns.
Millions of LGBTQ people around the world are still afraid to come out of the closet. Gay relationships are still criminalized in over 70 countries, and queer and transgender people are still regularly being killed or attacked in so-called gay friendly countries.
So, YES! Pride Parades are still important!
We keep marching at Pride Parades to fight against gay-hate crimes, support all those who are still not out of the closet, and show the world that there is NO SHAME to be queer. That it’s totally OK to be different. That love is love, and that queer people cannot and should not be discriminated.
How about you? Have you ever attended a Pride March? And what is your point of view on Pride Parades?
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Love your post! Even though we can’t be celebrating Pride in person this year it is uplifting to see memories of celebrations in so many places. Pride in Amsterdam looks so cool with floats going down the canal! I have lived in NYC for 8 years, and this was going to be my first year making it to Pride. Cross our fingers for 2021! Thanks for sharing your stories. Feels great to hear from other female LGBTQ+ travelers.
Mei and Kerstin
Thank you, Courtney! This will be the first year that we won’t attend a pride. It feels very weird! And yes, let’s cross fingers for 2021! Perhaps we’ll attend the Amsterdam pride.
I love ‘my’ Antwerp Pride and Antwerp Queer Arts Festival in my hometown because it brings people together and many people work on this pride a year long to bring a great event. Keep an eye on our blog ;-).
I love hearing about all of these pride parade experiences from around the world. I’m so sad I missed mine in Fort Lauderdale. I always love to support the LGBTQ+ community.
Mei and Kerstin
We loved Fort Lauderdale! And can imagine their Pride must be awesome! If you happen to go there next year, please send us some photos! 😊
What an AMAZING idea for a post! Pride parades are just the most unity-filled days, where everyone celebrates love! I was SO bummed out that I missed Amsterdam Pride (I arrived a few days after for my 6 months living in Holland!). I’m from Sydney and we have an amazing Mardi Gras every year!
Mei and Kerstin
Oh no! Hopefully you get to attend the Amsterdam Pride next year then! I can imagine that Mardi Gras is an interesting parade. We’ve never been to one.. but it has nothing to do with fighting for LGBT rights, does it?
I have never been to a Pride Parade, but would like to attend one. It’s always nice to see that people are getting more tolerant. We visited Alan Turing memorial in Manchester yesterday and there were many flowers around it from people paying their respects.
Mei and Kerstin
Alan Turing was a great cryptanalist. It‘s so sad that he was convicted and had to undergo hormonal treatment just because he preferred men. 🙁
Great roundup here! I lived in the heart of Madrid’s LGBTQ barrio (Chueca) for a few years and the pride celebrations were absolutely INCREDIBLE! The entire neighborhood shuts down for a week of free concerts, high heel races, DJs and dancing until the wee hours. On the day of the parade, the entire main avenue of Madrid – Gran Via – shuts down for the demonstrations and later for dancing and celebrations. Madrid is an excellent and safe city for LGBTQ travellers any time of year, but is especially a blast during Orgullo 🙂
Mei and Kerstin
Oh we didn’t know that the whole neighborhood of Chueca is shut down for a week during the annual Pride celebrations!! That’s so cool! We went to Madrid last March, but guess we should return next year during Pride then!
I always think that being gay is no big deal anymore and nobody really gives a damn – like we used to have gay mayors in Berlin and Hamburg, too, Germany’s former foreign minister was gay – and used to travel with his partner which was sort of hilarious regarding the countries he had to visit (other than that, he was a neo-liberal, so…not good), however, this said, it always throws me off when I hear snide comments on gays since I thought we left that behind in the 70s. I guess we’ve come a long way as a society…..but there is still a long road ahead; and at the end is a rainbow 🌈
Mei and Kerstin
Yes unfortunately there‘s still lots to do and fight for. We are lucky to live in a country/continent where we have “enough“ rights, but like you said there’s still a long way ahead.
I enjoyed seeing some of the different parades around the world. I especially liked hearing about the Cyprus parade, which brings together the Turkish and Greek Cypriots. I also think the New York parade would feel momentous, given the history of the Stonewall riots.
Mei and Kerstin
Yes we loved Seb and Stefan’s story about the Cyprus parade too. Even if Pride in Nicosia is still so recent, knowing that here is one at all now is giving us hope. And the NY Pride is certainly monumental!
One of the most wonderful changes that I’ve witnessed during my lifetime (46 years so far) is the enormous change in attitudes towards LGBTQ and the increase of Pride Parades in places it would once have seemed impossible is a sign of that progress. It is upsetting that there is still so damn far to go but at the same time, it’s encouraging that there has been a lot of progress in recent years.
Mei and Kerstin
We believe that as long as we keep fighting, one day people all around the world will come to consider LGBT as “normal”. Kids from the “Generation K” are fighters, so we are optimistic! 🙂
I love seeing so many countries participating in pride. I’ve always wanted to do a pride world tour, catching all the events. We had planned to go to New Orleans this year, but are postponing trips to the US at the moment.
Hahaha – I love that you are ‘postponing trips to the US’; I am ‘postponing’, too 😆
Mei and Kerstin
Lol! We know what you mean.. there are so many places in the US that we’d love to go to, but prefer to wait until 2020.