Last week was a great week to be gay in Copenhagen. Saturday marked the end of this year’s Copenhagen Pride Week, a week where LGBT issues are at the centre of attention in the city. The festival is always colourful, festive, and political – and all the events are free! Despite the rain, the final parade went on without a hitch on Saturday with over 100,000 people in attendance. This year’s Pride Week also coincides with the 30th anniversary of the PanGames, an international sports event hosted by the LGBT sports club in Copenhagen. Gay life goes way beyond Pride Week in August, it has long been a part of the culture in Copenhagen, and Denmark has always been at the forefront for LBGT rights.
Denmark is considered an inclusive place for people of all persuasions as Scandinavians in general are known for their open-mindedness and tolerance. In 1989, Denmark made history and became the first country to make same-sex unions legal. On the 1st of October in 1989, Danes Eigal and Axel Axgil were the first couple to enter into a registered same-sex partnership in 1989 after 40 years of being engaged. Registered gay couples have been allowed to adopt children since 2009, and have been legally allowed to get married in church since 2012.
Today, there are plenty of LGBT activites and events held throughout the year – the Copenhagen Pride Festival is one, and the city also hosts one of the oldest LGBT film festivals in the world, MIX Copenhagen hosted in October. There are many LGBT support groups and communities around the country which organise regular events and workshops, such as the PanGames. Copenhagen was also the second-ever host of the World OutGames in 2009.
Long before 1989, Denmark was a haven for gay rights. Copenhagen is home to one of the oldest gay bars in Europe, Centralhjørnet, opened in the Copenhagen city centre in 1917, and became a gay bar in the 1950s. Today many other establishments have followed their lead, and there are many gay bars and clubs located throughout Copenhagen.
Not only is this tolerance great for gay Danes and international residents, it is also great for tourists. Tourism boards in the region, such as Visit Copenhagen and Visit Denmark, take pride in the country’s tolerance and feature LGBT info sections on their websites. The information includes LGBT history in Denmarkas well as recommendations of places to go in the country/city. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), which is owned by the governments of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, also features LGBT travel information on their website. SAS was also the first airline to hold a same-sex wedding in-flight in 2010.
The rest of the world is starting to take notice of all which Copenhagen and Denmark have to offer LGBT travellers, and this is long overdue if you ask me. Earlier this year, Copenhagen was awarded the Breakout Destination of 2014 by Out Traveler Magazine, an online travel magazine for the gay community. The city was voted by readers around the world, beating out cities such as Istanbul, Philadelphia, and Antwerp. The city’s gay offerings have also been featured on one of USA Today’s 10 Best lists.
I come from a country where we are still fighting these issues of acceptance and tolerance. I’ve also lived in a country that only legalised homosexuality in 1997 and removed it as a mental illness in 2001. This week and every other week, I’m proud to live in a country where people can be free to love whomever they please.