Hey, straight cis people aren’t the only ones who need a vacation! Of course they generally don’t have to wonder if they might get beaten or killed on vacation just for holding hands with their partner or wearing clothes closest to their own gender identity. Still, LGBT tourism has becoming a thriving new business advent with cities around the world hoping to capitalize on wealthy queers looking for a fun getaway. In fact, many tourism websites of major cities now feature small blurbs about things for the LGBT traveler to enjoy. So whether you’re looking for international drag scenes, gay history, museums, nightclubs, or all of the above, here are six of the best gay cities to visit.
Prague, Czech Republic
While not quite as flashy or expensive as some other European tourist destinations, Prague is still a popular city for tourism due to its long history and breathtaking architecture. However, despite the breadth of history on display, Prague is still a remarkably progressive city within a country that has been generally progressive since the fall of communism, especially when compared to some of its close neighbors. Registered partnerships for gay couples were first introduced in the Czech Republic way back in 2006, and Prague held its first Pride Parade in 2011. Not to mention, the Czech Republic has been home to the huge annual multi-city queer film festival, the Mezipatra Queer Film Festival, for the last 17 years.
Prior to the Nazis, Berlin actually had a vibrant LGBT scene, with famous cabarets and a cosmopolitan flair for the diverse, not to mention the Institute for the Science of Sexuality (whose papers of groundbreaking research on gender and sexuality were all burned in 1933). It was a hub for gay European expats and artists such as the famous English writer Christopher Isherwood. Today, Berlin has revived this spirit with museums, arts institutions, clubs, and many queer bookstores.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio has always been a popular tourist spot in general, especially for LGBT folks. In fact, it’s been estimated that around a million LGBT people visit Rio de Janeiro every year, and it’s not hard to see why. With its incredible beaches, rich nightlife with clubs and bars, many shops, luxury hotels, and historical neighborhoods, Rio de Janeiro has earned its well-deserved spot on many lists as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world. Rio also has one of the biggest Pride Parades in the world and even gay-specific activities during the famous Rio Carnival.
Cape Town, South Africa
South Africa is frequently cited as being one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in Africa. Indeed, the post-apartheid constitution, written in 1994, outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation and in 1998 the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled that a law prohibiting consensual gay sex was unconstitutional, and South Africa has had marriage equality since 2005. Within Cape Town you can find beaches, nightclubs, and other fun attractions. Additionally, since 1994 Cape Town has hosted the Mother City Queer Project, a yearly costume festival meant to celebrate the multiple and diverse queer communities in Cape Town.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
You might think that the much larger tourist attractions of cities like Guadalajara and Acapulco would be on this list, but in recent years Puerto Vallarta has become a beacon of LGBT tourism in Mexico, attracting both international visitors as well as domestic tourists. Sitting right on the western coast of Mexico, Puerto Vallarta boasts beautiful beaches, pride celebrations since 2013, nightclubs, bars, and restaurants.
The category is high fashion gay pride eleganza extravaganza! Pride month is in full swing, and with it come countless pride parades and marches around the world. Now, most pride attendees tend to dress for the weather rather than the event, so the visual representation of what it means to be queer in the modern world is unfortunately left to those walking in the parade rather than those strolling down the street. And even then, most mainstream brands don’t offer up outfit choices that have the gusto needed to catch the attention of parade onlookers. However, all is not lost! The world of high fashion has always been the playground of the queer and non-conformist artists of the world, especially over the past few seasons; and with so much negativity and backlash being aimed at the LGBTQ+ in recent months. It’s wonderful to see designers around the world taking aim at queer oppressors and calling for resistance through their designs. And what better place to showcase your truest self than at Pride? Even if your outfit doesn’t directly call for the heads of those who aim at taking your freedom, you can always represent your queerness with some of these fabulously extravagant ensembles straight from the runways of the world.
Viva Las Gay-vas! Jeremy Scott has had a whirlwind career, having taken his namesake brand from alternative indie label to New York fashion powerhouse. Recently, Scott’s design endeavours have taken him from his home base in New York to Milan, where he now mans the helm at Moschino. For his Spring 2018 collection at the iconic Italian anti-fashion house, Scott delved into the glamorous and excessive world that is Las Vegas. Feather boa headdresses, pinstripe flames, and bold rainbows ran rampant throughout the collection. Taking what could have been an overdrawn Wayne Newton-Mr. Las Vegas trainwreck, into a fun and boisterous look into the more queer side of Sin City.
If you lean towards the more political when it comes to making a fashion statement. Ashish has you covered. For his Fall 2017 collection, designer Ashish Gupta created a collection based aimed at knocking those who feel it’s okay to judge and discriminate against minorities (especially queer minorities) off of their pedestals. The collection, which features gay-themed cartoons, rainbow flag patterns, and slogan shirts all focused on the resistance the gay community should be aiming at those who want nothing more than to make their lives a living hell. With slogans like “Nasty Woman, Fall In Love And Be More Tender, and Why Be Blue When You Can Be Gay?” Ashish’s Fall 2017 collection is sure to have the perfect war cry for any queer activists tastes.
Mary Katrantzou catapulted her career through the use of bold and graphic prints. So it came as no surprise when the British designer sent a wonderfully prim, yet cartoonishly sweet collection down the runway for her Fall 2017 season. The outfits, which were directly inspired by Disney’s Fantasia, which bombards its viewers a plethora of colour and fairytale imagery that would make even the most masc of men twirl with childhood excitement. What’s interesting about this collection isn’t that it directly references queer culture, instead, it conjures up imagery peaceful whimsy and fabulously glittery scenes that look like they came straight of a magical queer utopia.
Romance Was Born
The category is O.P.U.L.E.N.C.E! Imagine a world where disco never happened? Where the flash of the 70s and 80s played no role in influencing what modern queer culture would look like. Some of the greatest LGBTQ+ icons came from the eras of platform shoes and peroxide hair. SO why not wear something that pays homage to heydeys of Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Madonna, and Annie Lennox? Your choices are simple. Feminine ruffles and bows, or fringe and sequins. (And trust me, nothing is more exciting than twirling in a fringe ensemble. Nothing)
Alejandro Gomez Palomo Of Palomo Spain started his brand with a clear motive in mind. To provide the modern gentleman with a chance of exploring the vast spectrum that is gender identity through clothing. Since his debut collection, it was clear that Palomo’s views on clothing and male dressing were really unlike anything that had been seen in the past. In his eyes, dresses, ruffles, high heels, feminine patterns, and soft gender bending silhouettes were no longer off limits. This comes at a perfect time when the notions of gender and what it is to be human are being examined by society. In Palomo’s world, a man can wear a wedding dress or a sheer blouse and feel as confident and comfortable as his female counterpart would feel in it. Since the brand and the collection really have no clear assigned gender, wearing one of Palomo’s creations to a pride event would so impactful and important to those who have struggled with the acceptance of their gender identities by others and it could even inspire those who wish to show the world their truest self. This collection, along with Pride month itself, are really is about expressing the beauty of the gender spectrum. They call for the acceptance and embracing of human fluidity and being able to chose who you want to be for the sake of you happiness.
On February 5th, 1981, Toronto Police raided four major gay bathouses in Toronto, leading to over three hundred men being arrested. It is an event often considered the Canadian version of the events at Stonewall in 1969, and indeed the raid was the catalyst for the first Pride March in Toronto. Back then, Toronto Pride was a riot, a protest. It was the year before the AIDS crisis would begin to ravage our community. It was well before legal gay marriage would become a reality. And, of course, it was a far cry off from Pride of today, which feels more like a month-long party, expensive and inaccessible, and catering almost exclusively to white cis gay men.
Which isn’t to say that we should return to where we were as a community in 1981. We have made extraordinarily amazing progress as a community in the years since the first Pride. The problem isn’t really how far we’ve gotten, it’s who we’ve been leaving behind, and what history we are forgetting.
How many people really know the history behind Pride? How many of us know who the major players were? Or, perhaps worse, simply don’t care? And this lack of care is what leads to, for example, the exclusion of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, both trans women of color, from the 2015 film Stonewall, even though both were extremely integral to the actual riots, much more so than the fictional cis white gay man who the movie makes out to be the instigator.
Besides, is Pride even for us, as in the LGBTQ community? It’s doubtful. Over the years, Pride has gone from a sense of protest and demanding of inclusion, and has become more corporate, more exclusive, and those who try to remind Pride of its roots in protest are shut down. Isn’t BLM trying to bring Pride to a place of tolerance, where black and brown queer people don’t feel like they are being pushed out of their parade for the “feelings” of some police officers? Besides, nobody’s saying police can’t show up as civilians out of uniform, just as proud as any of us. Instead of pushing themselves into a parade, wouldn’t it be more productive to actually try to build a better relationship with the communities they are meant to help? Police chief Mark Saunders apologizing for the bathhouse raids was a good first step, but much more needs to be done.
A Pride full of TD floats, ever-flowing booze, and non-stop partying isn’t exactly made for a history lesson. I’m not saying that Pride shouldn’t have parties. The celebratory aspect is wonderful. But it has consumed Pride to the point where wanting anything else makes you feel like you’re not a real part of the community.
Not to mention, when the feelings of corporations are prioritized over actual queer people, then you have a problem. After all, it’s a lot easier to pitch a float than make real change. I reached out to several queer people around Toronto and asked them their thoughts, and many stated their outright discomfort with the level of corporate involvement in Toronto Pride. As, Laura, a bisexual cis woman told me, “I feel like pride has become very commercial, especially with corporations being involved. A bank with a rainbow flag on its door doesn’t really increase acceptance of [LGBTQIAP] individuals, just increases liberals patting themselves on the back for not really doing anything other than saying ‘I don’t hate gay people.’” Similarly, L. G., who identifies themselves as queer, enjoys “Participating in collective resistance” but dislikes the “Corporatization…straight ‘allies’…onlookers occupying space ignorantly…[I] often feel like Pride is for cis white gay men with money”
Still, any learning is impossible if the history gets lost in a party, and if Pride only lives inside one month of corporate parades and parties for rich white gay cis men. Progress is rarely made by those who get to feel comfortable in their position, and indeed this is the case for LGBTQIAP history right here in Toronto.
Celebrating queer identity in its many forms is a wonderful thing, but partying can’t be the centre of Pride, or the only thing that it offers. Pride needs to be inclusive for all and a way to connect with our shared past.
Some time last year, 2017 came to us like a lover we abruptly fell in love with at a social function because it seemed so fresh and put together. It was one smooth operating sonofabitch. It promised to meet us at the corner outside, next to the deli with all the colored flowers, under the streetlight where it’s parked a fast ride to the future, baby. We had a feeling that, together, we could be someone. Well, it didn’t work out so well. We got in the car and it drove us straight to a fuckboy of a new year made of what is increasingly turning out to be a frat party prank of a reality.
And believe it or not, we still have two thirds of 2017 left to go! More miles and ditches and road stops ahead in which all kinds of shenanigans will take place to the tune of craziness on television. But let us contemplate on what we rode past so far in this prelude to Fury Road.
Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief: After the madness of 2016, this year hasn’t been the year we were all hoping for. Reports of Chechnya allegedly detaining more than 100 men for being gay. According to the Independent, many have been tortured and at least four men have been killed. Yes, it’s no secret that with the many advances for the LGBT community there are still places in the world where being out is not an option. During my visit to Germany, I took a tour a of a former concentration camp where both Jews and Gay men were held, and the stories the guide told us were horrifying to say the least. It makes sick to think that this kind of abuse is still going on today.
Natasha Grodzinski, Arts & Culture Contributor : If a person were to receive multiple allegations of sexual assault, be fired from their high-profile job, have the allegations taken to court and then be acquitted but have a reputation in ruins, what would be the best thing for them to do? Probably, as the kids say, go away quietly. Not Jian Ghomeshi. He now has his own podcast. The only possible explanation I could give on why this is happening is he must be an egomaniac. Even if you look aside from the number of women who came forward with sexual assault allegations concerning Ghomeshi both inside and outside of the workplace, the podcast itself (called The Ideation Project) is just bad. It’s him talking about some new-age “opening a conversation” stuff over trippy music. Listen if you want, but personally, I think I’ve heard enough from him.
Claire Ball, Editorial Contributor: United Airlines has been a complete disaster this year, to say the least. The airline has been a part of a slew of recent embarrassments. From a giant showcase rabbit dying, to stopping girls from boarding a flight for wearing leggings, and how can we forget the incident when United aggressively dragged passenger David Dao off of his fight? Honestly, everything about the airline infuriates me. This may be an obvious solution, but maybe United should just stop overbooking flights? Or join the 21st century and change their “dress code” to allow leggings? Regardless, the moral of the story: don’t fly United Airlines.
Hoon, Managing Editor: In the midst of investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and Trump’s allegations that Obama ‘wiretapped’ him — or, as the term came to increasingly denote, surveil him in ways that are if not illegal, unethical —, the Republican House intelligence committee chair Rep. Devin Nunes (California) made a secret visit on March 21st to the White House grounds to look at classified information pertinent to the case. The next day, Nunes returned to the White House with cameras to proclaim to a hastily prepared news conference that he’s found information regarding ‘incidental collection’ of information on U.S. citizens involved in Trump’s transition, which, translated, meant that he’s come across documents indicating that legal surveillance of foreign officials on U.S. soil led to incidental collection of U.S. citizens — Flynn, for instance — interacting with them. Why he felt the need to pretend to have found the information by himself and to brief Trump on information the White House presented to Nunes, and what this means regarding the sanctity of U.S. democracy and its capacity to withstand internal political turmoil is still unclear. That the Capitol was a setting for a half-written and dimly acted out spy story, on the other hand, is unbearably clear.
Meg, Contributor: As if unhealthy, sugary drinks weren’t already hard to swallow, the notoriously ‘flat’ Pepsi ad was definitely a WTF moment. What was a sad attempt to encourage people to “join the conversation” was really a massive failure that affirmed the idea that lack of knowledge on inclusivity and global issues is still very much an issue. Pepsi created a campaign centred around supermodel Kendall Jenner who took time off from her bustling model career to save the multicultural mass protest against riot police by sharing a can of Pepsi. While this campaign has set a seriously narrow minded tone, I think the backlash that was received after is indication of the power that the people really can have in speaking out against what is so obviously wrong. After taking the campaign down, the issues surrounding it are still being talked about and addressed in a way that indicates change for how these subjects are approached. A few weeks later, Heineken came out with a campaign focusing on the same issues of encouraging dialogue over social issues but doing so in a way that was more raw and less commercialized. This WTF moment has thankfully turned itself around as other companies prove that careful and compassionate advertising is not lost.
Kimberley, Contributor: Over the years, it has become apparent that the Oscars have become irrelevant. Now simply used as a marketing tool, the Oscars often fail to offer any diversity within their selection of nominees. In 2017, major pictures, La La Land and Moonlight went head-to-head for the”Best Picture” title. After briefly hesitating to announce the award, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway declared La La Land as the winner. The entire cast and crew came up to accept their award, not long before La La Land‘s producer, Jordan Horowitz announced that there had been a mistake. It was later confirmed that Warren Beatty was handed the wrong card, and because of this, La La Land received the award over the rightful winner, Moonlight. I can’t pretend to know what it takes to successfully run an award show, especially one as big as the Oscars. This is certainly one of the biggest WTF moments of 2017, and will probably be mentioned for years to come. I just hope it won’t overshadow the importance of Moonlight as a film and take away from its victory as the “Best Picture” winner.
Adina Heisler, Contributor: While much of the attention has been given to some of the more outlandish, bizarre, and horrifying members and scandals of the White House and the Trump Administration, we shouldn’t forget about the unprecedented level of power and access Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner hold. Both now hold official roles in the White House (Ivanka is an “Assistant to the President” and Jared is a senior adviser), have been present at meetings with world leaders and domestic officials, and seem to have more influence than anyone else in the White House. Their qualifications? Being the daughter and son-in-law of the President. They may not be as flashy as the Donald, but their positions should be viewed with the same level of skepticism and outrage we give him, and his staff and cabinet.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Tawiah Ben M’Carthy, and Thomas Olajide, founding members of Saga Collectif and creators of the new play Black Boys.
Now playing at Buddies at Bad Times Threatre until December 11th, Black Boys weaves together the ensemble’s own personal stories in hopes of seeking a deeper understanding of themselves, each other, and how they encounter the world. The play takes you on the exploration of the lives of the three performers and integrate tales based on their unique identities, gender, sexuality, and race.
Drew Brown: Can you tell us how Black Boys came about?
Thomas: We met each other in the theatre community and we were all hungry to create theatre that spoke to our experiences as people and artists. In 2012, we came together to do just that. We began talking with Brendan Healy in 2013, who was the artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times at the time, and got to do a residency here. And the project started from there.
Stephen: We’re also all part of the Saga Collectif, which includes our director Jonathan Seinen and our choreographer Virgilia Griffith. The core team we work with has grown together.
Tawiah: While having conversations on ideas and topics that interest us, we’ve accumulated thoughts and words we want to work with. And in the studio, sometimes, it’s just improv and generating material that would later get transcribed to a text or a larger idea. We’ve had one public workshop last year in Buddies, but we’ve also had closed improv and write in workshops before.
D: Can you tell us how cathartic the creative process was for each of you?
S: It was very cathartic in the way that it wasn’t an impersonal project. When we came into these rooms, all the experiences of our daily lives would follow us and we would unpack them together. After a day of rehearsals, I’d go home and notice how I see things differently. It was a short span of time but I felt that I was in the process of changing
TA: What we do inside the theatre in the safety of each other informs our lives outside it and vice versa. During the creative process there have been events, some of them life-changing, that have come into the project. Our daily life would inform the conversation just as our theatre life affects us outside.
TH: For me, it was about uncovering how varied our identities are — exploring what we relate to and what I assumed we all related to because we’re black. But we didn’t have some things in common because we’ve had varied experiences. I knew this intellectually but after working on Black Boys, I know it experientially. Like Stephen was saying, I’d come home after a day of rehearsal and find that I see things differently. The process was a series of such realizations that raised deep questions in me. For instance, What is blackness? Perhaps blackness isn’t something related to skin color but to certain experiences. I wonder what concepts like blackness or queerness we live by on a daily basis on societal levels mean on an individual level.
D: Was there ever a time when you thought you were sharing too much?
S: It has happened. But I’m in the process of questioning who I want to be as an artist and it’s challenging me to the extent where I’m letting the art dictate me. It’s especially difficult when your personal story implicates other people in your life, like your family or friends. So I had to figure out a way to reveal them in the story without taking away their power.
TA: Because of the subject matter, it becomes personal whether we want it to or not. There’s a constant negotiation around that. I’ve felt it more after the writing process when I looked back and said, “Wow, I’ve said all these things?” But now I look at it as an art piece; it came from the personal but it’s been fictionalized and been put on stage. It’s birthed out of experience but it’s been put on stage as a play — I realize that I’m the artist that created this work. I think I said this to Stephen once, An artist often puts their true selves in their works. That’s what makes the art live. And there’s bits of our true selves in the work. But as a person, I still sometimes feel vulnerable.
D: Did you notice something new about yourselves or your fellow cast members?
TH: What I’ve noticed is how powerful a reaction I had to my experiences as an actor. Diversity in theatre is often practiced in the latest stage of a creative process or production, which is usually casting. But more so than not, the people who make countless creative decisions before the casting process tend to be not so diverse; the same people from the same communities decide whose story should be told now. Sometimes I felt I was being objectified or used as a tool for promoting diversity. I was not invited into the production for which I’m being casted. Aside from my black body, the narratives and ideas that make up who I am were not included. So, in retrospect, looking back at the old materials we worked on, I realized how much my reactions to such experiences drove me creatively.
TA: When you spend time in a limited space with a group of people, you learn how to work with them, how to listen, to make space for others. I’ve mostly created solo shows and working with others was a process of navigating the series of intricacies involved. I’ve built on my skills as an actor through the process. For instance, I’ve become better at actively listening and realizing when I’m taking up too much space. What’s more, these skills are also applied to my daily life outside of the theatre. They help me grow as an artist and an individual.
TH: Everyone has different skills and strengths and we’ve come from artistically different backgrounds; Tawiah’s done many solo shows, Stephen paints and writes. For me, I’ve learned how to write by watching people who are better at it. It has expanded my artistic imagination and what I think I can do to express myself.
D: Was it difficult to make that adjustment mentally?
TH: Usually, the character acts a buffer between the audience and me. But as the show take form more and more, it starts to create its own context of safety. Although you are not playing a character, and although the material is derived from you, there’s a certain level of fictionality. We’ve edited the text, we’ve rehearsed, and the structure of theatre — lighting, scene changes, for instance — create buffers again. Nevertheless, there have been pieces of writing that were excluded from the show because they make me vulnerable. At some point, you have to take into consideration your own safety.
D: Worldwide, politics are swinging to the right and in some cases the progress made in the LGBTQ community, toward racism, and minority rights are being undone. As artists, what do you think you can do to help cope with and mend the consequences of current political zeitgeist?
TH: This is the time for radical honesty. Out of fear, the initial reaction may be to censor, to recoil, or to hide. But now, for me, is the time for absolute honesty; where can I be more audacious where I wasn’t; where can I be honest where I was just playing at honesty; how can I get to a point instead of jumping around it. We have to be so because they are. While we meander and beat around the bushes, decisions are being made that affect my life and the lives of those I relate to. Even if I don’t belong to some of those communities, I’m rooting for them from afar because their freedom means mine. We need to look for ways to make alliances with such communities or to reinforce those that already exist. And we have to be able to acknowledge and sit within the discomfort of saying we’re different: Yes, I may not have the same religion as you; yes, maybe we are of a different race; yes, the way you show your love may not be the way I show mine. But fundamentally, what motivates us is the same. We need patience, endurance, and conviction to see this thing through.
S: If anything, I think, it’s important to not lose your power. I really believe that every human has as much power in them as anybody else. It’s a question of how can you grow and claim as much power as whoever’s leading a country. And I think this is the time to ask yourself what kind of a person you want to be.
TA: You need to be active in whatever way you can. If it’s creating art, create art; if it’s telling stories, tell the stories; if it’s just showing up at rallies, show up. Just be active. Because the expectation that others will speak or stand up for you is an illusion. If you really want others to stand for you, you need to stand so that they will stand with you. We need to be especially active now because – perhaps this isn’t the best word — we are ‘endangered’. We can’t wait for someone else to come and save us. Whatever form it takes, just do it. Like Nike (laughs).
D: What do you want people to walk away with after seeing Black Boys?
TH: I’m hesitant in speaking about the audience’s experience. But I hope it affects them in whatever way. They might have been adverse to something or they were taken with something else. But hopefully it sparks a dialogue. But ideally, it’d be empathy.
TA:I think for me, the hope is that the traditionally othered will come into the space and feel that their stories and experiences are somehow represented. To be inspired to speak up and active.
Black Boys is now playing until December 11th at Buddies at Bad Time Theatre. For the tickets visit the website here.