Copenhagen Rallies for An Unforgettable WorldPride 2021

by Ivan Quintanilla

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday August 31, 2021
Originally published on August 30, 2021

In the best of times, traveling to a foreign place can be intimidating. Add new health concerns and pandemic protocols, and deciding to travel right now can trigger an emotional rollercoaster. But as I arrived to see Copenhagen draped in every color of the rainbow, I was overcome with how much I had missed my international LGBTQ+ community.

Copenhagen 2021 was the joint celebration of World Pride and EuroGames, in Copenhagen, Denmark, and neighboring Malmö, Sweden, from August 12-22. The event united artists, athletes and activists under the theme, "You Are Included."

And included we were. Copenhagen 2021 created the Rainbow Children space for the youngest in our community, with events like Drag Queen Story Hour; the Fluid Festival, celebrating the fluidity of gender expression and identity; and the Human Rights Forum pushing for equality and giving the international audience tools for tangible action. There were over 1,000 physical events, many with a digital component for those unable to attend. There were performances and parties and six different Pride marches that concluded with an outdoor festival in Fælledparken Park—and that was just one Saturday.

Aside from its significant physical beauty, Copenhagen proved a perfect setting for the most inclusive LGBTQ+ event of the year. After all, homosexuality has been decriminalized in Denmark since 1933.

Within a short walk through the Latin Quarter neighborhood — home to most of the city's LGBTQ+ hotspots — you can enjoy an al fresco drink or meal at Oscar Bar Café , arguably the most popular LGBTQ+ spot in town; participate in a fisting party at SLM Copenhagen, the largest fetish club in Scandinavia; or visit Centralhjørnet, one of the oldest LGBTQ+ bars in the world, openly identifying as gay since the 1950s.

The event was undoubtedly a shift from what organizers originally envisioned but, then again, so are we all.

"In the most difficult circumstances imaginable, we have delivered the most beautiful, loving, life-affirming and change-making event Denmark and Sweden have ever seen," said Katja Moesgaard, Chair of Copenhagen 2021.

According to Denmark's current regulations, proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test was required at bars, restaurants, and indoor venues. Copenhagen erected complimentary testing stations throughout the city, and major events were moved outdoors for safer interactions. It was pretty impressive and heartwarming to see an international LGBTQ+ event of this magnitude adapt and thrive.

Denmark's Legacy of LGBTQ+ Inclusion

Aside from the official World Pride festivities, the city highlighted diversity and inclusion throughout its cultural institutions. The Museum of Copenhagen created special LGBTQ+ focused historical walking tours and featured the "Queer in Copenhagen" audio experience, detailing 1,000 years of the city's LGBTQ history, beginning with the Vikings.

The National Gallery of Denmark produced "700 Years of Art in a Queer Perspective," a guided tour through its permanent collection. Even queer history and naughty humor united to sail the city's canals when beloved local drag queens Chantal Al Arab and Betty Bitschlap led their cAnal Tours through Copenhagen's waterways.

Copenhagen's City Hall Square was rebranded as "World Pride Square" to become the geographical heart of Pride, with food and drink venues, performances and a massive screen for outdoor streaming of the major events — because pandemic or not, Pride is still necessary.

"We have come far, yet the fight is not over yet," stated Mette Frederiksen, the Prime Minister of Denmark, from the stage at Fælledparken Park. "We step forward but, unfortunately, we sometimes also step backward... hateful laws and practices, discrimination and hate crimes, the fight is not over. And no one should hide their love; no one should deny who they are. So, today I would like to send a clear message to my colleagues in Europe and to the rest of the world, we need to stand up and fight for diversity." Throughout her speech, the Prime Minister would repeat the phrase that became a rallying cry for Copenhagen 2021: "Love is never wrong!"

World Pride is bigger than any one person. It is bigger than any one event. It is a celebration of the strides we've made and a regrouping for all the work that lays ahead — for all of us.

[READ MORE: 5 Fall Prides You Won't Want to Miss]

"Pride is the story of our community bringing about change that once seemed so impossible; it was incomprehensible. Not just into possibility but into reality. If we've done it before, we can do it again," said Sarah McBride, a Delaware State Senator, the highest-ranking transgender elected official in the United States and a member of the U.S. delegation to Copenhagen 2021, in an interview with travel vlogger Ravi Roth.

WorldPride 2021 even boasted a princess! Her Royal Highness, the Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, served as Patron of Copenhagen 2021, becoming the first member of a royal family to give patronage to an international LGBTQ+ event.

She, too, spoke at the closing ceremony in Fælledparken Park: "Let's be one community. A community with one common agenda. A community where problems are not yours or mine; they are ours. Where differences are embraced and celebrated. Where we are open and tolerant. Where compassion and humanity thrive. A community where we are allies who stand up and defend each other."

Copenhagen, you've made the world proud.

Cuban born, Miami raised, Dallas and London educated and New York seasoned, Ivan Quintanilla is a travel writer and professional actor living in Hell's Kitchen, NYC. Read about his latest destinations at TravelingIQ and follow him on Instagram at @TravelingIQ