The 6 best LGBTQ-friendly places to travel

Jamie Tabberer

From beachside towns to blockbuster super-cities: these are the historic LGBTQIA+ playgrounds that get better and better

1. Palm Springs, California

A little LGBTQI+ desert oasis, Palm Springs is, despite its modest size (it has a population of under 50,000), a gay capital of the world. Community spirit is marinated into the city’s fabric, from the retro clothing-optional resorts (INNdulge) to the community-driven assisted living retirement communities (Stonewall Gardens) and the array of community-owned businesses (such as Bear Wear, ie a supermarket for bears!).

Older generations tend to call it home, but at weekends younger generations complete the scenic two-hour drive from LA for iconic parties such as White Party Palm Springs and Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend.

November’s Palm Springs Pride is notable for being one of the latest in the country, owing to the destination’s sizzling heat in the summer months. This year, it takes place from Friday 6 to Sunday 8 November.

 

2. Brighton, England

A magnet for LGBTQIs across the UK and beyond, an estimated 15 per cent of Brighton’s permanent residents identity as part of the community; it’s also home to the highest number of same-sex couples in England.

For a perfect weekend in this fantastically liberal seaside town, stay at charming gay-owned bed and breakfast Blanch House, check out the LGBTIQ+ artefacts at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery before hitting blockbuster nightclub Revenge.

Trans Pride Brighton & Hove takes place from Saturday 18 to Sunday 19 July, while Brighton Pride—one of the highest-profile in the country, attracting headliners such as Kylie Minogue and Britney Spears in recent years—takes place from Saturday 1 August to Sunday 2 August.

 

3. Sydney, Australia

Of course, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has grown to become one of the biggest and longest annual LGBTQI+ festivals in the world.

The 2020 instalment already in full swing: it climaxes on Saturday 29 February with a headline concert from Physical singer Dua Lipa. The Mardi Gras Film Festival also spans the second half of February; don’t miss the chill, family and pet-friendly Fair Day in Victoria Park on the 16 February.

But what of the LGBTIQ+ scene outside Mardi Gras? Highlights include The Bookshop in Darlinghurst, Australia’s oldest LGBTQI+ bookstore, the inclusive environment and raucous drag shows at Redfern bar Bearded Tit, and the whole suburb of Newtown, where the club SlyFox is especially popular with lesbians.

 

4. Bangkok, Thailand

Its lack of discrimination policies and other laws leave something to be desired, but Thai society is more supportive of LGBIQs than many of its Asian neighbours. The country also boasts a huge, historic trans, gender nonbinary population.

That said, attitudes across the country vary, so many community members flock to the likes of Pattaya (home to popular trans beauty pageant Miss International Queen) and the buzzing capital/most-visited city in the world, Bangkok.

Home to almost 10 million people, the other City of Angels boasts booming seven-nights-a-week nightlife: from the Vegas-style trans performers of the riverfront Calypso Cabaret to Silom’s pumping DJ Station, while the go-go boys and liberated sexuality of Soi Pratuchai and Soi Cowboy need no introduction. Spectrosynthesis II, reportedly the largest exhibition of Asian LGBTIQ+ art ever, is on display at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre until 1 March. Asia’s largest gay circuit party, G Circuit Songkran, will take over the city’s most cavernous nightclub spaces and coolest hotel pools from 10-13 April.

 

5. London, England

From the manicured streets of Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury to the well-heeled Soho haunts of Oscar Wilde; from Bowie’s Brixton to the ugly-pretty creative hotpot that is East London (the latter home to a surprising amount of today’s LGBTIQ+ pop stars!) London gets less straight every year!

The nightlife choices are endless, from the ubiquity of the G-A-Y brand in central to the perfect triangle of dragtastic Haggerston/Dalston boozers (Dalston Superstore, The Glory and The Queen Adelaide). While many spaces have sadly closed down over the last 10 years (RIP, Camden’s Black Cap) many are popping up, such as the riverfront Circa the Club. What’s more, recent years have seen the welcome rise of sober spaces.

Meanwhile, Gay’s the Word bookshop is still going strong 41 years after opening, boosted by a prominent placement in 2014’s hit movie Pride. Speaking of, Pride In London returns Saturday 27 June, with Black Pride taking place the following day.

 

6. San Francisco, California

Three years before the Stonewall Riots, San Fran’s Tenderloin district saw what many consider the brith of the trans rights movement: The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot.

This is just one example of how The City By the Bay has become a spiritual homeland for the non-cis and the non-heterosexual, as captured in TV shows like HBO’s Looking, about the lives and loves of three gay men, to the recently Netflix-revived Tales of the City (based on Armistead Maupin’s book series), featuring a rainbow of LGBTQI+s, including trans characters in their 20s and 90s.

Stomp around the world’s best gaybourhood, the Castro, to peruse timeworn community magazines at the LGBT History Museum, hit decades-old gay bars like the Twin Peaks Tavern (believed to be the country’s first to have full-length glass windows) and blockbuster club The EndUp.

Don’t miss the 2020 San Francisco Pride Parade, taking place Sunday 28 June, while fetish lovers and their friends will love Folsom Street Fair, from Sunday 27 September to Monday 28 September.

Read more: A brief history of Pride Month

Read more: 8 Novels every gay man should read


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