City Spotlight: Vancouver

Canada has long been established as a gay-friendly country, with the most advanced LGBT rights in the Americas and probably across all English-speaking countries as well. And Vancouver, the country’s third largest city after Toronto and Montreal, is seen by many as one of the top destinations to visit.

A coastal seaport city in Canada’s westernmost province of British Colombia, Vancouver is one of the country’s most diverse cities, both geographically and demographically – it is a modern, metropolitan city with the vast Pacific Ocean on one side and the other is snow-capped mountains, over half its 2.5 million residents do not speak English as a first language and more than a third of the population are of Asian (particularly Chinese) heritage. Much of Canada is known for its cold climate, but Vancouver enjoys its status as one of the country’s warmest – with lows of 15 degrees Celsius in the winter and highs of around 30 during the summer months, making it an ideal all-year round holiday destination.

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Vancouver’s LGBT community is one of Canada’s most largest, prolific and diverse and has been a hotspot for gay travellers around the world, particularly the US, since it legalised gay marriage in 2003. Its community is centred mainly around two areas – Davie Village in the West End and Commercial Drive, also known locally as “The Drive”. Davie Village is seen as the most prominent area with many gay-owned and gay-friendly bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes and shops in and around it with beautiful beaches and the huge Stanley Park not far off, while Commercial Drive is similar but situated on the east side of the city but perhaps not as well as known a “gaybourhood”. For a full listing of gay and gay-oriented places in Vancouver, visit here.

Vancouver gay Pride is not just one week of celebrations but a number of events take place in the run-up to the main festivities at the end of the July and beginning of July, including sports games between local teams, a Pride event for the east side of the city, a fun run and walk and a “city proclamation” (whereby a huge rainbow flag is raised in the city centre). The main Pride week will be from 29th July to 4th August, with the huge Parade ending it all on the last day. As well as Pride, there is also a Queer Arts Festival from 24th July to 9th August and a Queer Film Festival from 15th-25th August.

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For non-LGBT places to go to, Vancouver also has plenty. With a multicultural society, the city is home to distinct ethnic commercial areas such as Chinatown, Greektown, Japantown, Punjabi Market and Little Italy. Other festivals that take place include the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival in January, as well as the Vancouver Fringe Festival and the Vancouver International Film Festival, both in September. There are also numerous galleries, museums, theatres and other interesting architectural structures and buildings, beaches and parks worth visiting. And if you want a short break away from the bustling and relatively hot metropolis, the city and province’s neighbouring areas are great for a taste of snowy and wintry Canada.

Gay Homestays has a few properties available in Vancouver, including one that has a private outdoor swimming pool! We also have a number of accommodations in other parts of Canada, such as Calgary, Lund, Maitland, Montreal, Quebec, Saint John and Toronto, so check them out too if you’re travelling to this great country any time soon!

City Spotlight: Sydney

While Sydney is commonly mistaken to be the capital of Australia (and we all know, it is of course Canberra) as it is the most populous and most well-known, many people do believe it is the country’s gay capital. Situated on the southeast coast – making it a very urban seaside city (like many in Australia such as Brisbane), Sydney is the capital of the state of New South Wales, was the site of Australia’s first British colony and is now the country’s most cosmopolitan and multicultural city. So why is Sydney – a very gay-friendly city – a must-visit destination for gay and lesbian travellers? Here we will tell you what LGBT tourists to Sydney can expect from and experience in this lovely city.

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Sydney is consistently ranked by top experts and websites as one of the best cities in the world to live in and one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations and has a very rich culture that centres around music, performing arts and sports. Some of the city’s top attractions include the famous Sydney Opera House, the Olympic Park, numerous arts galleries, museums, arts festivals (some of the biggest in Australia), Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Tower, public sculptures and of course some of the many beaches surrounding the city and nearby areas.

Although the government have yet to acknowledge same-sex marriage, research has shown that the majority of the Australian population do support and want it. Other LGBT rights are mostly in line with other first-world countries, such as anti-discrimination legislation, the right to change one’s legal gender and in some states the right to adopt and foster children. Gay life in Sydney however, does flourish and is predominantly centred around the Darlinghurst (mainly Oxford Street) and Surry Hills districts, alongside others, where a large number of gay-owned and gay-friendly business reside, include bars, clubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, saunas and accommodation. Bondi, Obelisk and Lady Jane beaches are some of the most frequented beaches by gays and are very busy during the summer months, both day and night. The many bars and clubs vary far and wide, with ones to suit everyone’s style and preferences – there are men-only places, lesbian bars, trans bars, cabaret and drag queen bars, high-end and cheaper places for those with different budgets, large and loud clubs for the young and hip and those who prefer an older, mature crowd and a quieter place to chill.

Sydney’s LGBT pride parade, commonly known as Mardi Gras, is similar in extravagance to those in Brazil. It is the largest of this event in Australia and in the southern hemisphere outside of South America, attracting over 300,000 people who watch the Parade and around 70,000 who attend Fair Day, the opening day of the event which lasts a few weeks in February and March. The event grew from gay rights marches held annually since 1978 and  it is now New South Wales’ second-largest annual event in terms of economic impact, generating an annual income of about A$30 million for the state, proving the power of the “Pink Dollar” and gay travel. The Mardi Gras Film Festival also takes place during this time. QueerScreen is another film festival held in Newtown district in September and Sydney Pride – not to be confused with Mardi Gras is another large and popular LGBT event held every June for about two weeks.

Sydney is one of Gay Homestays‘ top destinations and our most popular in Australia with over 30 accommodations available – from gay guest rooms in apartments and houses, whole properties and gay or gay-friendly rooms in guesthouses – in the city and its surrounding area, though many are situated in or around Sydney’s gay area. Obviously the most popular time to visit Sydney or any other area of Australia is during the summer (December to February) and when Mardi Gras is on, though Sydney’s climate is still pretty stable and mild (average of 15-20 degrees Celsius) throughout the rest of the year.

City Spotlight: Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale, known as the “Venice of America” for its expansive and intricate canal system, is one of the principal and biggest cities in Florida and one of the United States’ most popular holiday destinations, with around 11 million visitors each year – including more than a million LGBT travellers. Every year it usually features on lists of top or best gay travel destinations in the US or around the world for its ideal location in the southeast coast of the States, for its gay-friendly attitude and a big LGBT community and area with more than 150 gay-owned or gay-focused businesses. It also has a Convention and Visitors Bureau, which spends considerable amounts of money collating resources and marketing specifically to the gay community.

Situated along the southeast coast – meaning it is very warm or hot all year round, Fort Lauderdale is of course, well-known for its host of beaches (7 miles worth of them) – many which are frequented predominantly by gay and bisexual men, though the girls love them too. The most popular is Sebastian Street Beach and there is also the infamous nude Haulover Beach. Around 10 minutes away is Fort Lauderdale’s neighbouring city, the smaller Wilton Manors while Miami is just half an hour away, where there are more beaches and a just as thriving LGBT community and gay nightlife. If you’re up for a longer journey then Tampa and Orlando are about 3 and a half hours away to the north, as of course Lake Buena Vista – better known as Walt Disney World Resort – is. Further down south is the little island of Key West, a further 3 hours or so away.

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Fort Lauderdale’s Gay Pride (also known as Pride or PrideFest South Florida) event is one of the oldest in the world and is currently in its 37th year and in 2014 it will take place on the first weekend of March (1st-2nd). Miami Gay Beach Pride will be on 11th-13th April. Both Fort Lauderdale and Miami have Gay and Lesbian Film Festivals – Fort Lauderdale’s 6th annual festival will be hosted from 9th-12th October and Miami’s (in its 16th year) will be from 25th April to 4th May 2014. Other LGBT events in these areas include White Party Week, Winter Party and Sizzle in Miami. For full listings of Fort Lauderdale and Miami’s gay areas, check out GayCities for more information. Unfortunately though, despite Florida being seen as one of America’s most gay-friendly states, it has to legalise gay marriage but we hope in the future it will follow suit.

If you’re going to Fort Lauderdale or around this area and are looking for a place to stay, then why not check out our LGBT-owned and LGBT-friendly accommodations? We currently have 15 properties available in Fort Lauderdale, 3 in neighbouring Wilton Manors and 13 in nearby Miami. Or if you’re someone who has a spare room in your property or a whole place you want to rent out to travellers, then you can sign up as a host here and add your accommodation, start making money and meeting new people.

City Spotlight: Rio de Janeiro

Brazil is known as one of South America’s most gay-friendly countries with advanced legal rights for LGBT people including equal age of consent, health benefits, immigration equality, the right to change legal gender, anti-homophobia laws, and most recently in May 2013, same-sex marriages were made legal nationwide. Brazil is a very diverse country and a popular holiday hotspot for many people, including LGBT travellers, particularly because of its large cities’ LGBT festivals and parades, which are some of the world’s largest – São Paulo takes pole position with well over 2 million visitors every year, while the ones in the capital Brasilia and Salvador attract nearly 1 million. Rio de Janeiro’s – arguably the country’s most popular destination, and the soon-to-host of the 2016 Summer Olympics – is the second largest (1.5-2 million).

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Rio was recently voted as the world’s best gay destination and it was estimatedthat 1 in every 4 visitors to the city is LGBT and with not only a huge Pride event, but a bustling LGBT community, an open attitude towards sex and sexuality and of course and great attractions for every holidaymaker, it’s easy to see why that is the case. The Ipanema district in Rio is where LGBT life in the city is predominantly located where there are plenty of gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses such as bars, clubs, restaurants and shops. The neighbouring Leblon district is also popular with the gay community and has art galleries, museums, theatres and boutique shops that serve as interesting local attractions.

The Copacabana beach is one of Rio’s many beaches, and probably its most famous, located next to the Ipanema and Farme Gay beaches, where if you want to eye up some of the hot local Latin guys and girls or other tourists making the most of the sun and heat, that’s the place to be. The beaches host a lot of parties too, especially during Pride and Carnival and will go on late into the night. Gay nightlife in the city also goes on late into the night and even into the early hours of the morning and usually starts pretty late as well, with most people preferring to eat late dinner and drink in restaurants and smaller pubs and bars before moving on to the major clubs. For a full listing of places, click here.

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As previously mentioned, the two main yearly events that take place in Rio are Carnival and gay Pride. The former usually happens at the end of February through to the beginning of March and is always big, extravagant, vibrant and colourful, with pretty much everyone getting involved as the huge collective party atmosphere and attitude takes over everyone and the whole city. Pride on the other hand has varied dates each year – in 2012 it was November, but this year it is slated to commence on 13th October and expected to once again to be a massive success and continue to be on the world’s biggest and best Prides. New Year’s Eve is also a very popular event which sees over 2.5 million come together to ring in the new year on Copacabana Beach, usually all dressed in white. Another gay festival, the Rio Festival Gay de Cinema – the city’s international LGBT film festival – usually takes place in July.

Rio offers a lot of other attractions, things to do and see and places to go, and being a predominantly Roman Catholic area, is of course home to many religious building and structures – the most famous being the must-see statue of Jesus Christ on Corcovado mountain (the fourth tallest in the world). Other places include nearby islands, rainforests and mountains, if you wish to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life and explore Brazil’s wild nature.

One’s safety must always be kept in mind when travelling to Brazil and staying in Rio. Even though the gay areas are known to be the wealthiest part of the city, beggars and criminals still try their luck at pickpocketing or taking advantage of people, especially foreigners, so it is not advised that you be left or travel alone or walk around by yourself at night. Please take a look at our top tips for gay travellers for more information.

We currently have half a dozen accommodations available in Rio or alternatively, we also have accommodations in Belo Horizonte, Marceló, Natal, Salvador and São Paulo, but if you have a spare room or property that you want to rent out on a short-term basis to guests in Rio or any other Brazilian city, you can it here.

How well do you know your LGBT+ flags?

Honestly, the LGBT+ movement is moving so quickly these days that it is difficult for anyone to keep up with so being a travel company we thought we would share with you a quick fun guide to the international language behind flags and symbols attached to the LGBT+ Community for all you Pride-goers over this glorious season.

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Obviously everybody knows the Rainbow Flag, synonymous with the LGBT Pride movement, but within the movement there are numerous subcultures which all have their own defining symbology; so how well do you know your pride flags?

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Lesbian Pride

Lesbian Pride usually uses the ancient symbol of the Labrys, the double-headed battleaxe, to represent lesbian and feminist strength and self-sufficiency. This flag in particular holds some interesting significance in the inverted black triangle which was used by the Nazis to denote lesbians and “workshy” people in a similar way to the gold star.

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Bisexual Pride

The flag for Bisexual Pride features a 3 striped design, the representation of each strip is debated but the widely accepted  explanation is:  “The pink colour represents sexual attraction to the same sex only (gay and lesbian), The blue represents sexual attraction to the opposite sex only (straight) and the resultant overlap colour purple represents sexual attraction to both sexes (bi).”.

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TranSgender Pride

Transgender Pride uses a flag with 5 equally sized stripes: “The stripes at the top and bottom are light blue, the traditional colour for baby boys. The stripes next to them are pink, the traditional colour for baby girls. The stripe in the middle is white, for those who are intersex, transitioning or consider themselves having a neutral or undefined gender. The pattern is such that no matter which way you fly it, it is always correct, signifying us finding correctness in our lives.”.
Another flag used by Transgender Pride looks like this:

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Another flag used by Transgender Pride in more recent years. There is some debate as to whether this flag looks too similar to the Bisexual Pride flag so it has fallen slightly out of vogue but honestly it looks fierce.

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This fused male/female symbol is quite self explanatory but has also seen wide usage within the Transgender Movement.

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Genderfluid Pride

Genderfluid Pride is a subset of the Transgender Pride movement which are in their own right a separate entity and so have their own flag. The Gender Fluid flag consists of five stripes. This flag represents the fluctuations and the flexibility of gender in gender fluid people. The first stripe is pink which represents femininity, or feeling female. The second stripe is white, and represents the lack of gender, including agender, or gender neutral. The third stripe is purple and represents a combination of masculinity and femininity including various degrees of androgyny. The fourth stripe is black and represents all other genders, third genders, and pangender. Lastly the final stripe is blue and represents masculinity or feeling male.

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Intersex Pride

One of the newest additions to the roster of flags, the Intersex Pride uses the purple circle on a yellow background as their flag of choice with a deeply thought out symbology; purple and yellow were used in this context as a “hermaphroditic” colours to represent the intersex community.

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Also in use is this flag with a blended blue and pink middle stripe to represent the gender fusion that intersex people are born into.

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GenderQueer Pride

Genderqueer (GQ or non-binary) Pride use a tripartite flag with a lavender stripe chosen as lavender is seen as an androgynous colour; a white stripe to represent agender identity and chartreuse green for the final stripe to represent those whose identities are defined outside of and without reference to the binary.

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Non-Binary Pride

The Non-Binary Pride flag was created in 2014 after a call was made in the community from those who did not feel that the Genderqueer Pride flag represented them and so this came to be. The four striped design; yellow, white, purple and yellow has significance in each layer. The yellow represents those whose gender exists without reference to the binary; the white represents those who have many or all genders as white is the root of all clolour; the purple represents those who feel their gender is between or a mix of female and male and the final black stripe represents those who are without gender as black is the absence of colour.

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Pansexual Pride

The Pansexual Pride flag consists of 3 horizontal stripes; pink, yellow and blue. The pink stripe represents those who identify with the male spectrum; the pink is to represent those who identify with the female spectrum and the yellow portion represents non-binary attraction such as androgynous, agender, bigender, genderfluid, transgender and intersex peoples.

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AGENDER PRIDE

Created in 2014  the Agender Pride flag has seven horizontal stripes which are coloured (top to bottom) black, grey, white, green, white, grey, black. The Black stripes represent complete absence of gender; grey represent semi-genderless and green represents nonbinary as it is the inverse of purple populary used to represent androgyny.

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The popular transgender symbol is also used by the Agender community with the addition of a black bar to represent the lack of gender.

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Asexual Pride

The Asexual pride flag features four horizontal stripes with the black stripe representing Asexuality; the grey stripe representing Grey-A orientation; white representing sexuality and finally purple to represent community as a whole.

And finally and honestly my personal favourite of the lot is the flag for allies of the LGBT+ movement:

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Proud Ally

For anyone who made it through this entire blog I thank you for sticking to it, the LGBT+ community is the most diverse group of people ever to grace this fine earth and we can only hope for it to grow ever larger. Flags are easy to let people identify themselves but behind every flag is a person waving it. an identity in and of itself, we are all unique; embrace it!!!

@GayHomestays for updates on all of our blogs.