There is a famous story of Swedes “calling in gay” to work in the 1970s, as a protest against homosexuality’s classification as an illness. While this tale has been sensationalised over the years, it stuck out in my mind during my visit to Stockholm. The people and businesses I encountered seemed to place a high priority on fairness and inclusion. We visited the Swedish Royal Opera which was hosting LGBT weddings for pride, and learned that some straight couples had also chosen to hold their own weddings there under the rainbow flag, in solidarity. On a trip to the museum in the Royal Palace, I asked staff why they were wearing T-shirts emblazoned with rainbows. They informed me that they wanted to show that everyone is welcome here. They also said that all government employees must attend four days of training in LGBT.
This acceptance was echoed throughout this beautiful city, which is spread across several islands. I am sure this great attitude contributed to the pride parade being the most diverse I have ever seen. Stockholm pride is Scandinavia’s largest, and as well as giving every identity a chance to be in the spotlight, also made some political statements. The popular parade group, “marching for those who can’t”, walked in silence with taped mouths. I am told that many of this group were marching for Orlando this year. There were also groups standing up to racism and xenophobia, including Black Lives Matter and refugee groups. These groups were surrounded by a cacophony of rainbows, singing, and dancing, making this one of the most joyous and poignant celebrations of diversity I have ever encountered.
Stockholm Pride festivities include the Pride Park, open from Thursday to late Saturday night. Here they hosted a diverse range of entertainers, including Swedish singalongs, burlesque, drag acts, and DJs. Ruby Rose headlined the event. There were a range of stands providing other sources of interests, and everyone was very willing to talk and explain anything that we didn’t understand. The official language is Swedish, but everyone speaks English (and most of them fluently) as it is compulsory to learn in school.
The pride park also branched off into an over 18s section called the “Kinky Quarter” which showcased Stockholm’s BDSM scene. There were stage performances, workshops, stalls selling related items, and even “taster spanking sessions” where you could try it out with experienced community members!
Throughout the pride weekend we were spoiled for choice in parties, with several taking place every night. The women’s parties were huge, leaving the London lesbian scene in the shadows. The Underklädesfesten, (underwear party) took place on Thursday in a lovely old theatre. Our British sensibilities made us somewhat nervous about this event, but once we got inside we found it to be a great party and a liberating experience, with no pressure to remove more clothing than you are comfortable with. We then dropped into the HER Launch party which was very busy and provided some entertainment as well as great DJs.
Friday’s party was Moxy at Blekholmsterrassen. Moxy is a regular women’s party organiser in Stockholm, and they didn’t disappoint with this multi-room party with a beautiful river view terrace. After the park on Saturday, we chose the Ruby Rose Pride Closing Party at the huge Ambassadeur. Again there were several different rooms with different DJs, while Ruby headlined in the largest room.
I can’t recommend Stockholm Pride enough. Not only is this a wonderful city in itself, with plenty to see and do, but the Pride weekend is like no other that I’ve ever seen. You can see footage of the parade, park, kinky quarter and pride parties in this video.
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For more information on Gay and Lesbian Stockholm at any time of year, visit www.visitstockholm.com/en/the-lgbt-guide-to-stockholm/
To find out more about gay and lesbian friendly Sweden, check out www.visitswedenlgbt.com