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Gay-Friendly Travel Destinations

A number of destinations around the world promote themselves as “gay-friendly”. They usually boast a significant gay population with a wide variety of gay resources and attractions. The list includes some of the blue-chip standbys such as good ol’ San Fran and swinging Sydney, along with next year’s gay-friendly favorites like Buenos Aires. Although these destinations aren’t totally free of discrimination, local’s efforts to make it that way are commendable.

Amsterdam, Netherlands: With a self-titled nickname of, “the gay way to Europe”, this host of the 1998 Gay Games has plenty of openness. As if drugs and the red-light district weren’t enough to discourage, preachy persons have another reason to avoid Amsterdam: Netherlands was the first nation to offer full marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples in 2000. There are four main ‘gay areas’ in the city. Gay Amsterdam provides a walking-tour map of them all.

Berlin, Germany: Germany’s capital has a long history of gay-friendly advocacy. With the roaring twenties came clubs, bars and the opening of The Institute for Sexology, which fought against sexual-orientation discrimination using scientific claims. Although pushed underground with the rise of Nazi Germany, the city reemerged and now boasts the third largest gay population in Europe (after London and Amsterdam) and celebrated the movement’s 100th anniversary in 1997. Over the years, numerous Berlin leaders were rumored to be gay, including Frederick the Great, Heinrich von Kleist, and Alexander von Humboldt. Berlin voted for a gay mayor in 2001. My Gay World: Berlin will bring you up to date on all the happenings. The tourist board also has a few things to say.

Bangkok, Thailand: In Bangkok (yeah, yeah, the joke about the name was old in like, 4th grade but we’ll allow you to giggle once), anything goes. Like other sectors of local nightlife, the after-hours gay scene is definitely go-go. Although aimed more toward gay men than lesbians, there are a variety of clubs in Silom Sois 2 & 4. Bangkok is also home to a number of transsexuals, called Ladyboys. Although technically illegal, prostitution is big-money, and many interactions between Thais and Westerners can have this ‘feel’, as locals may expect ‘gifts’ from their richer Western counterparts. Bangkok Pride has info on their November Pride event.

Buenos Aires, Argentina: Buenos Aires is the definition of up-and-coming. Looking for something besides tried-and-true San Fran and Sydney? This is the place to be. The BBC reports that up to 20% of visitors are gay. Part of reason behind this jump? The city legalized same-sex civil unions in 2003. PlanetOut has a couple of things to say about BA, as does The Gay Guide and Spanish-language site Gay in Buenos Aires.

Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.: Any big city has a popular gay area, and Chicago is no different. One of the more tolerant areas in the Midwest, Chicago’s gay scene combines swanky dining with gaudy drag shows and excellent after-hours partying, no matter what your style.BoysTown Chicago is a local resource, named after the popular gay area. Gay Chicago Magazine also keeps its pulse on the city. The city will also host the upcoming Gay Games in 2006.

Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.: It’s time for fun-in-the-sun relaxing rays on Hawaii’s big island. This melting-pot paradise is notoriously gay-friendly, although travelers expecting Key Beach frolicking will be disappointed. The gay scene is much more low-key and relaxed, although Waikiki is the best place for partying. Rainbow Handbook is considered an excellent guide. For local info, surf on over to Gay Hawaii.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Any city with a party as large, outlandish and crazy as Carnaval has to be gay-friendly. Rio Gay Guide offers up recommended day-and-night touring schedules and will find a party every day of the week. The site also posts clickable maps of the area’s up-and-coming gay spots, as well as established favorites. Buenos Aires may be South America’s top spot for gay travellers, but Rio de Janeiro is pushing for your dollar, too.

San Francisco, California, U.S.A.: The LGBT Capital of the world, San Fran earned its reputation in late 1960s, when flower-power was in and intolerance was out. The city hosted the first Gay Olympics, now called Gay Games, in 1982. There are a number of openly gay elected officials – none more famous than the late Harvey Milk. In February of 2004, the mayor added another first, allowing gay marriage. However, it was quickly stopped by the courts. Gay Travel is so big here, the Convention and Visitors Bureau has its own section devoted to gay tourists.

Sydney, Australia: Life down under doesn’t get any hotter than Oxford Street in Sydney. This club quarter packs ’em all hours of the night…and day. However, that’s not the only gay-friendly part of town – visitors will find most of the city welcoming. Sydney hosted the Gay Games in 2002, and it throws one of the biggest parties – straight or gay – in the world during Mardi Gras. When the Queens get off the floats, check out some of the best drag shows in Australasia. Guide to Gay Sydney will show you more of the hot spots.