“Love is inclusive in its infinite diversity of expression.” This quote by Harold W Becker, who is known as one of the modern day messengers of love, describes the feeling at its best. Love knows no bounds and goes beyond the clutches of caste, gender or race indeed. And, to celebrate love and the people, who are not bound by the social constructs of gender identity, June is observed as the International Pride Month, with 28 June being the International Pride Day (in most places). This day is dedicated to the people belonging to the LGBTQ+ community. While not every country supports this community, there are some extremely LGBTQ+ friendly countries, which are very hospitable.
From legalising same-sex marriage to passing laws that allow adoption rights; banning hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community and protecting their rights to having gay-friendly neighbourhoods — these countries are setting examples of inclusivity, while spreading harmony among all.
Vibrant LGBTQ+ scenes, prominent pride events, warm locals and supportive government — make these countries, not just open and inclusive but progressive and liberal as well.
Take a look at some LGBTQ+ friendly countries that you can visit
Malta has topped the latest Rainbow Europe ILGA index (2022) for the seventh consecutive time. The index ranks all 49 European countries in terms of protecting human rights, equality and the overall social climate.
After legalising homosexuality in 1973, same-sex marriage was given a legal nod in 2017, in Malta. The country allows both — single parents as well as couples, irrespective of their sexual orientation, to adopt children. It also gives lesbians the right to opt for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatments. The country’s former President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca criminalised conversion therapy and introduced other laws and legislations in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
Since Malta is a small country, located in the south of Italy, the queer scene is quite small and intimate. There are a handful of gay bars and joints but almost all nightclubs and pubs welcome people from the LGBTQ+ community. The annual pride parade takes place in Valletta every September and is attended by politicians and popular personalities amid huge crowds. This year the pride week will be celebrated between 2 September and 11 September.
Belgium decriminalised gay marriage in 2003 and was the second country in the world to take the step. It was way back in 1795, when Belgium, then a French territory, decriminalised same-sex relationships and became one of the first nations to introduce legislation for transgender rights.
Belgium sets a positive example when it comes to being a progressive country. Same-sex adoption rights, IVF for lesbians, rights for ex-pats to sponsor partners and legal change of gender without any surgery, are some of the steps taken by this country, which make it a haven for people from the LGBTQ+ community. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Belgium holds the second position in the Rainbow Europe ILGA Index (2022).
This European nation is also one of the most vibrant places in terms of pride parades and queer scenes. There may not be specific gay villages but Antwerp and Brussels have people from the LGBTQ+ community in large numbers. Brussels holds the largest pride parade in the country in March. Popular gay bars in the city include Le Dolores, La Demence, Le Belgica and Stammbar.
The pride celebration in The Netherlands is very unique. Slated to be held between 30 July and 7 August, this year, it is a fascinating spectacle as Amsterdam’s canals come alive with the celebrations on boats.
The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise gay-marriage way back in 2001. With as many as five pride events held annually, the country is extremely progressive when it comes to same-sex relationships.
One of the very few countries to have a strong set of anti-discrimination legislations, The Netherlands has a fabulous scene, when it comes to socialising without having to conceal or be conscious of your sexual orientation. Amsterdam, more particularly Reguliersdwarsstraat gay village, displays pride like no other. With LGBTQ+ friendly bars, shops, clubs and parties held in hangout joints like Prik, SoHo, Café Reality, Club NYX and others, it vibrantly displays the ‘rainbow’ colours.
Another noted place is Café ‘t Mandje. Its famous lesbian owner Bet van Beeran opened its doors in 1927 and since then the place offers some great evenings with eclectic interiors, awesome music and a friendly crowd.
The Dutch people are extremely supportive of same-sex relationships. People from the LGBTQ+ community here, enjoy the same inheritance rights and equal employment opportunities as well as can apply for gender-neutral passports.
It is not common to see a national leader, who is straight, leading a pride parade and cheering in support of the LGBTQ+ community. In 2016, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made headlines, globally, when he led the Toronto pride march, waving a rainbow flag. This itself speaks volumes about Canada being one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in the world. It also sheds light upon the nation’s stance on same-sex marriages, transgender rights and LGBTQ+ travellers.
This year the celebrations in Toronto will take place between 24 June and 26 June and will feature numerous street fairs. It is quite a laid back affair and can be enjoyed with kids as well. Toronto’s dynamic Queens Street has been a dazzling destination for queer communities since decades. Though almost every Canadian city has thriving LGBTQ+ scenes, some of the most prominent places include Woody’s and Buddies in Bad Times Theatre among others.
Canadian cities also hold their own annual events for the LGBTQ+ community. These include the Whistler Pride & Ski Festival, Vancouver Pride, Tremblant Gay Ski Week and Quebec Gay Ski Week among others.
Albeit, same-sex marriage was legalised in 2005, the first instance took place in Toronto in 2001. Equal work opportunities, tax benefits as well as old age security are given to people from the LGBTQ+ community. Any person with non-binary gender identity can also include it in their passport. The country protects transgender rights brilliantly. For instance, Canada allows citizens to change their legal gender without having to undergo gender reassignment surgery. In the 1990s Canada passed a set of anti-discriminatory laws which allowed queer people to serve in the national army.
An interesting fact about Canada — as a mark to celebrate the golden jubilee of decriminalisation of homosexuality, the government introduced a new one-dollar coin. With this, it became the first nation to commemorate an LGBTQ+ milestone with its currency.
If you are looking for LGBTQ+ friendly European countries, Spain undoubtedly hosts some of the biggest pride parades and fun events for same-sex couples.
The 2022 Barcelona Pride will be held between 13 June to 26 June. Additionally, almost every Spanish city has their own pride event. The prominent ones include WE Party in Madrid, Circuit Barcelona, Bear Pride Barcelona, Snow Gay Weekend, Sitges Bear Week and Delice Dream in Torremolinos.
The LGBTQ+ friendly country houses some of the most vibrant neighbourhoods for the community, which includes places like the Eixample in Barcelona, also known as Gaixample, Maspalomas gay area in Gran Canaria, Carrer de Joan Tarrida street in Sitges and others. Platja de la Mar Bella beach in Barcelona is one of the world’s most famous gay beaches.
Same-sex marriage was legalised in 2005 and since then and even before, the country has been extremely open and liberal about same-sex relationships. From adoption rights to inheritance, work permits and other arenas, the LGBTQ+ community enjoys equal rights and opportunities in Spain. In fact, in 2018, Spanish model Angela Ponce became the first transgender person to be crowned Miss Universe.
As New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere, the nation’s pride events are held in January or February. The next Auckland Pride will be held between 1 February to 26 February 2023.
For years, the island country has been considered one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly countries in the world. It gave a legal green signal to same-sex marriage in 2013 and allows gay people to serve openly in the military too. It has had several ministers from the LGBTQ+ community in the government like current finance minister Grant Robertson, Pacific Gender Equality Ambassador Louisa Wall, a former member of Parliament Charles Chauvel and former Mayor of Carterton Georgina Beyer.
Irrespective of their gender identity, unmarried couples in New Zealand can adopt children. Like Trudeau, Jacinda Arden too grabbed global attention in 2018, by becoming the first New Zealand PM to walk in the Auckland pride march.
There are quite a few LGBTQ+ friendly neighbourhoods and hangout spots in New Zealand that ensure a good time for same-sex couples and friends. Karangahape Road, also known as K-Road, in Auckland houses some awesome queer-friendly bars like The Eagle Bar and Family Bar.
Apart from the famous Auckland Pride, other large scale LGBTQ+ events include Auckland’s Big Gay Out in February, Wellington International Pride Parade in March and Christchurch Pride held in the same month. August-September also brings in the Gay Ski Week as part of winter pride in Queenstown.
In 2019, Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriages, setting an example for other nations on the continent. Since then, the LGBTQ+ scene in the country has risen tremendously.
Anti-discrimination laws were introduced in 2004, which banned all kinds of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity in educational institutions. The law was extended to jobs and business sectors by 2017. Taiwan is also extremely progressive when it comes to transgender rights. In 2013 it saw the first trans marriage, though the couple had undergone gender-reaffirming surgery. Taiwan also appointed Audrey Tang, a transgender person, as the country’s digital minister in 2021.
The LGBTQ+ scene in Taiwan is highly energetic and dynamic. Capital city Taipei houses the biggest LGBTQ+ community. Some popular LGBTQ+ friendly bars include Café Dalida, The Secret Garden and Commander D. Popular gay clubs in the city include G Star and Cercle de Cercle Fusion Restaurant & Bar.
Iceland is undoubtedly an extremely culturally liberal and LGBTQ+ friendly country. It is one of the happiest nations for the community. In 2009, Iceland was the only country in the world that had a lesbian head of the parliament openly — Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who was in office till 2013.
The island country decriminalised homosexuality in 1940 and the vote to legalise same-sex marriage got a unanimous nod in the Icelandic Alþingi in 2010. The country recognises the third gender and has passed several anti-discriminatory laws to protect LGBTQ+ rights.
Though Iceland is a small nation, the LGBTQ+ scene here is expressed well. The capital city hosts Reykjavík Pride and this year it will be celebrated between 2 August and 7 August. Another event is the Winter Pride Rainbow Reykjavik, which is held in March. Some popular pubs include Kiki Queer Bar and Lady Brewery.
Thailand’s pristine beaches, jazzy nightlife, exotic locales and warm and hospitable people don’t need any introduction. Also, It is one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly destinations in Asia and the world.
Known as the ‘land of smiles’ too, Thailand has numerous LGBTQ+ friendly bars, joints and hangout places. Popular tourist places like Pattaya and Phi-Phi islands have beach shacks and restaurants that have incredible queer scenes. The island of Koh Samui also hosts its own pride festivals. Some popular gay bars in Bangkok include Silom Soi 2 and the G circuit, which has some of the best parties, especially during Songkran.
Other noted places in the city include DJ Station, The Stranger Bar, Telephone Pub and Balcony-The Fun Pub. Apart from these, one can also visit the Chiang Mai cabaret show, which is one of the country’s most glamorous and extravagant drag shows.
Despite the locals being very hospitable and culturally liberal, the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t enjoy some equal rights as others. Though the country became one of the first ones to legalise homosexuality in 1956, same-sex marriage still remains illegal. However, a host of anti-discrimination laws protect education, employment, housing and so on. People from the LGBTQ+ community can also openly serve in the Thai army.
(Main and Featured Image Credit: Go To Van from Vancouver, Canada, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)