Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pride Around the World

Pride Fest Chicago is one of my favorite summer events, mostly because it is one of the few times during the year where everyone tosses aside their inhibitions, proudly wears anything--or nothing--and comes together in a grand spectacle of joy, celebration, openeness and unity. I have participated in the festivities for the last two years, and I always have a good time watching the parade of flamboyant costumes, colorful floats and shirtless men--not to mention the crowd of people who are just as entertaining to watch. So far, though, Chicago's is the only Pride Fest I've experienced, and while it's certainly a great one, there are a number of other's I am eager to see.

Here in the U.S., New York and San Francisco are probably the two most well-known pride festivals. New York has been celebrating ever since the 1969 riot that sparked the gay rights movement, making it the oldest march for sexual equality in the world. The parade is usually held in June and is the finale of a week-long festival which can bring in as many as 750,000 people.

San Francisco's Pride Fest is held at the end of June and features 200 floats in its parade that travel along Market Street. The tradition dates back to 1970 and now more than one million people attend every year. Organizers said the point of the event is to "educate the world, commemorate our heritage, celebrate our culture, and liberate our people."

While these events are certainly noteworthy, Pride resonates throughout the world, and there are some international festivals that are definitely a must see.

Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is the largest Pride event in the world and lasts the entire month of February. The event was sparked back in 1978 when police revoked a permit for a Pride parade and arrested 51 people. The celebration is combined with the Mardi Gras holiday, making for never-ending activities, including a parade, harbour parties, mardi gras festivals, drag races, pool parties and much more.

In Amsterdam, they take the celebration to the water. The Pride Fest features a flotilla of 75 glittering boats. The festivities take place at the end of July or beginning of August, and events include street parties and club circuit parties, as well as the famed Canal Parade.

Brazil is known for its Carnivale celebrations, but is also noted for its Pride Festivals. Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro both have huge celebrations, so either city is worth visiting. Rio's parade is held on Copacabana Beach in October. Sao Paulo's event is acknowledged as the largest pride parade in the world, drawing nearly four million people.

Obviously, there are dozens more held all over the world, from Manila in the Philippines to Berlin, Germany, from Madrid, Spain to Montreal, Canada. There is no end to the possibilities to show your support for the Gay and Lesbian communities around the globe--or to find an excuse to wear flashy costumes and rainbow jewelry. I fully intend to hit some of the Sydney Pride Fest when I head down to Australia next February, and I will be sure to report back on all the insanity.

Until then, stay proud!!

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