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Go West Young Queers!


From small towns in the Arctic circle to Stockholm’s celebrated festival in August, there are many Pride events in Sweden, but few are as all-embracing as Gothenburg’s West Pride, which just marked its tenth anniversary.


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In June the parks in Gothenburg are bright with deep crimson peonies, lupins, and aliums in bobbing clusters. But what blossoms most profusely across this great Scandinavian city are rainbow flags--more than a 1000 of them fluttering from every public building and landmark in celebration of West Pride. Think of it: an entire city embracing its LGBTQ community. If it wasn't always this way--until 2013, Sweden required transgender citizens to be sterilized before undergoing gender confirmation therapy--the country is rapidly making up for the past. Gothenburg was a pioneer in forming an LGBTQ council that brings together representatives from all the major political parties to ensure that equality issues are addressed, and that city employees are educated in LGBTQ issues. Such initiatives have helped elevate Gothenburg to its vaunted position as the friendliest LGBTQ city in Sweden, an honor bestowed in 2014. (Another recent survey, by global hostel booking site Hostelworld, named it the most sociable city in the world).

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The work doesn't stop there. As with much of Europe, Sweden is dealing with a substantial influx of refugees from war-torn Syria and Iraq, posing new cultural and social challenges. One way to address differences is through education. By law every school in Sweden has to implement non-discrimination policies and many incorporate LGBTQ studies as part of the curriculum. In 2014, the country officially incorporated the genderless pronoun "hen" - which mixes the words "hon" (she) and "han" (he) into the national language. Maybe this explains the family vibe at West Pride where grandmothers walk with grandchildren, and strollers abound. This year was the tenth anniversary of West Pride in Gothenburg, and next year the city will partner with Stockholm to host EuroPride 2018, with a series of cultural events and concerts under the slogan "Two Cities, one festival, one united continent, open to the world." If you're smart, you'll book your trip now--before gay friendly hotels such as The Clarion Hotel Post (Drottningtorget 10) or the boutique Hotel Pigalle (Sodra Hamngatan 2A) are sold out.

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