With summer just around the corner, many countries are preparing for the informal start of Pride season and I couldn’t be more excited! Before we dive into the best Pride festivals around the world, let’s run through an overview of Pride history and what LGBTQ2+ is.
A bit of Pride history
The history of Pride begins in New York City, 1969: a time when homosexuality was less understood and accepted, leading to severe discrimination and harassment towards people who identified as homosexual. Men and women could even be arrested if they didn’t comply with the ‘gender norms’ of the time.
On the night of June 28 that year, when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich, patrons inside decided they’d had enough. They fought back and rioted, sparking a nationwide movement. The following year, ‘gay pride’ commemorations took place all over the country
What began as small, scattered gatherings of brave protesters soon united entire communities in fighting for equality and social justice, giving birth to the ever-growing LGBTQ2+ community that we have today.
What is LGBTQ2+?
The term LGBTQ2+ represents people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning), or two-spirited. The term is inclusive, so anyone who doesn’t identify as heterosexual or any of the aforementioned groups can be represented by the + symbol, including allies—anyone who doesn’t identify as LGBTQ2+, but express their support for LGBTQ2+ rights.
If you’re not familiar with the term, ‘two-spirit’ is thought to encapsulate both the masculine and the feminine; the ability to connect with both identities was thought to be special and a source of both power and strength within the indigenous community. Being in touch with your identity, with who you are and how you feel, was an important part of the culture of the indigenous tribes of North America long before colonization.
Whether or not you identify as LGBTQ2+, Pride welcomes everyone. It’s a celebration of who you are as an individual, regardless of your identity, ethnicity, age or religion.
Today, Pride is celebrated far and wide across the globe. In some countries, the event symbolizes a cry for help that’s often met with fierce backlash, persecution, violence, and even death. In others, it’s a symbol of hope for social equality, a positive political tool. And for the most fortunate, it’s a celebration of how far we’ve come since 1969.
Despite some progress, it’s important to remember that homosexuality is still outlawed in 74 countries as of today. Depending on the country, the sentence for being who you are can be a fine, a few years in prison, or even capital punishment in the most extreme cases.
Even in Canada, where LGBTQ2+ rights are far more progressive than most countries, there‘s still room for improvement. Equal rights don’t necessarily mean equal treatment. Discrimination and harassment still exist in our society, and the mental toll can be devastating.
And so, Pride carries on year after year to fight against the oppression experienced by those born in the wrong place, as well as to pay tribute to those who fought for the freedom and equality that we enjoy in some communities today.
Pride participation in Canada, the US and beyond
Attending Pride can be an empowering experience no matter who you are and where you come from. If you ask me, it’s a global celebration of humanity and what we can accomplish when we work together. Some of the best Pride festivals around the world, specifically in North America, are those held in New York City and Vancouver. Both cities are world-renowned destinations for Pride events.
One of the best Pride festivals around the world is in New York City (June)
NYC is host to the second largest Pride celebration in the world, with over 3 million attendees and more than 50 events organized in 4 weeks, including rallies, lectures, parties and the famous parade.
Want to learn more about the history of gay rights in the city? Follow this interactive map and embark on an educational journey through the streets of the Big Apple. Not to mention, June is a great time to visit New York to enjoy the warmth and avoid the humidity. While you’re there, stay a whole week and visit the many museums and other tourist attractions the city has to offer.
Another one of the best Pride festivals in the world is in Vancouver (August long weekend)
One of the world’s best Pride celebrations happens to be in my hometown of Vancouver in beautiful British Columbia. I’ve attended the parade as a spectator, but I’ve also marched twice alongside a float. It gave me an indescribable feeling of joy (and pride) to see everyone in the crowd, people of all ages, backgrounds and identities, waving at us with genuine smiles on their faces. This is what Pride is about: bringing together people in peace and unity.
Vancouver’s parade goes through the vibrant West End and stops at Sunset Beach, framed by the ocean and mountains. Vancouver is truly a wonderful city to visit, especially in the summer. And if you’re a local, why not make a fun day out of it and be a tourist in your own town?
Catch next year’s Pride festival in sunny Puerto Vallarta (May)
Originally celebrated to extend the tourist season until the end of May, Puerto Vallarta’s Pride has become a go-to destination for vacationers looking for a fun-filled time under the hot Mexican sun. The city hosts various cultural and culinary events, as well as pool parties, beach parties, sunset parties, white parties, and more, contributing to the event’s fun reputation. The colourful town and idyllic beaches make for the perfect setting to celebrate diversity while having a good time with your friends. Party at night and chill at the beach or explore the nearby regions by day.
I hope this North American Pride tour has sparked your interest in attending either of these colourful and meaningful events. Be sure to read Part 2, where we explore even more Pride festivals around the world.
Travel with Pride!
Thomas Boudel Tan