Learn about the Biggest Gay Prides in the World | Pride Month Events
Following the famous Stonewall Inn protests of 1969 led by the legendary Marsha P. Johnson the beginning of an annual gay pride parade tradition and celebration was born. The Stonewall riot, or more accurately the Stonewall uprising, was a pivotal moment in the history of gay liberation. After violent interactions with police at the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in New York City, the LGBTQ+ community who were fed up with oppressive laws and abusive police officers began an uprising that changed history. Exactly one year later on June 28, 1970, the first gay pride parade was planned as a march for gay liberation on Christopher street. Since then, countries and communities all over the world have begun to partake in gay pride parades, marches, celebrations, and a honoring of LGBTQ+ pride in various forms in the month of June. If you’ve ever attended a pride parade, you know that along with the sentiment of activism and resilience, there is a palpable expression of joy and love that is shared among massive gatherings of people from all walks of life. In the past, these parades have been huge, sometimes attended by up to 5 million people celebrating LGBTQ+ pride, diversity and liberation. If you want to know where in the world the largest gay pride celebrations exist, take a look at this list of the biggest gay prides in the world. Whether they’re near or far, people travel from all over to attend the LGBTQ+ celebrations on this list of largest parades.
Sao Paulo Pride
Beginning in 1997, the pride parade in Sao Paulo, Brazil is the most attended pride parade and the biggest pride parade in the world. In 2019 upwards of 5 million people attended the parade which marches 2.6 miles from the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (Art Museum of Sao Paulo) and travels through the city on main roads to finish at the public square Praça Roosevelt. The parade attracts between 3 and 5 million people annually and is a huge source of revenue for the city’s tourism industry. This parade has held the Guinness book of world records title of biggest parade since 2006 when the parade reached 2.5 million in attendance. The event is organized by the Associação da Parada do Orgulho de Gays, Lésbicas, Bissexuais e Travestis e Transexuais, also known as APOGLBT in Brazil.
New York City is where the tradition of the pride parade began, so it is an essential part of this list of the biggest pride festivals. The New York City parade starts by the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village and is the biggest gay pride parade in the US. Other important and highly trafficked pride parades in the USA include the San Francisco pride parade, the Los Angeles pride parade, the Chicago pride parade and the Washington DC pride parade. In 2019 NYC parade goers celebrated 50 years since the Stonewall Uprising, which made this event one of the most highly attended with over 150,000 parade participants along with a huge increase in tourism on the weekend of the event. Over 5 million tourists flocked to the area to celebrate pride. NYC Pride is a widely celebrated event. It is one of the most famous pride parades, if not the most famous one. It is the origin of the pride parade and a long-standing tradition. The parade in New York was not always met with acceptance from bystanders or police. Early parades were an act of defiance, to be gay and to be proud was an activist stance that sometimes resulted in abuse and mistreatment from bystanders. In 2021, our society has reached a point where companies change product branding to include rainbow flags for pride month, however despite the mainstream usage of pride symbols in marketing, there is still work to be done to make New York and many other places in the world free of hate for those who are the most marginalized. Pride is not just “gay pride”. Pride celebrates intersectionality and diversity in the LGBTQ+ community, and it should lift those who continue to feel persecuted for living authentically and who still face violence, cruelty, and rejection from their families or from strangers to this day.
The Taipei pride parade held in Taipei, Taiwan is the biggest pride parade in Asia, with 200,000 participants attending in 2019. This annual parade began in 2003 and has grown majorly in popularity and attendance since its inception. The parade in Taiwan differs from a lot of western pride parades because it is less commercialized and more about the community-focused aspects. The parade is not sponsored by companies or corporations but rather by the government of Taipei who values diversity and acceptance. The march begins at the municipal park 228 Memorial Park, which was a historical meeting site for gay men in the city, and goes through the main roads of Taipei. Another interesting thing about this parade is that the road is not blocked off for pedestrians only. The road is shared by motorists and parade marchers alike, presenting a mingled and interesting crowd of passers-by and parade participants.
The pride parade in Cologne, Germany is one of the biggest pride parades in Europe with about 700,000 participants in attendance in 2014. The parade began in the 1980s as Christopher Street Day, to model after the NYC pride parade that resulted after the Stonewall Inn uprising. This parade became part of a Europe-wide event celebrating pride called Europride in 2002. The parade was effective in garnering support and rights for gay liberation and the LGBTQ+ movement in Germany.
In Madrid, Spain, the pride celebration occurs in the Chueca neighborhood of Madrid and hosts about 1.5 million tourists annually. This pride celebration is the biggest in Europe and it started around the same time as the New York City pride parade with only a handful of participants, later growing to be a multimillion-dollar tourist event in Madrid that educated people on LGBTQ+ issues and garnered support and rights for the LGBTQ+ community in Spain. The celebration is known locally as Orgullo Gay de Madrid, and it lasts from Wednesday to Sunday following the historic day of June 28th.
Sydney Pride, which is known as The Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, is a huge event of celebration and political activism in Sydney, Australia every year. It began in 1978 as an event of rebellion against police brutality towards gay people in New South Wales. The event then grew into the multi-faceted event it is today. With screenings of LGBTQ+ movies, panels of political issues regarding the LGBTQ+ community, drag races, beach parties and more, this event is truly one that attracts a large crowd of people for multiple reasons all in the name of LGBTQ+ celebration and activism. It is the biggest pride parade in the continent of Oceania, and it is attended by hundreds of thousands of people from near and far each year.
Amsterdam pride is slightly different than a lot of other gay pride events because it is held in the month of August and is focused on freedom and diversity instead of what many other pride events are centered around: equal rights. This event has been happening since 1996, but another event called Pink Saturday has occurred in the name of equal rights rather than freedom of expression since 1981, the event has been hosted by different cities in the nation every year. The pride parade, however, occurs along the canal of Amsterdam. Many boats flying pride flags and celebrating the freedom of expression and diversity show colorful and interesting displays and carry celebratory participants along the canal.
The Johannesburg pride parades in South Africa are focused mainly on political advocacy for LGBTQ+ citizens and take up an activist stance against prejudice and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. The event has historically protested anti LGBTQ+ laws in the country and what is referred to as “corrective rape” of lesbian women. The parade later became more celebratory of anti-discrimination laws that were put into place after the end of apartheid in South Africa, but the parade continues to be a majorly political event that occurs every year. It is the biggest pride event in the continent of Africa after being created by the group called The Gay and Lesbian Organisation of the Witwatersrand (GLOW) which hosted the event attended by only 800 people in its first year. GLOW was founded by Simon Nkoli, an anti-aparthied activist who was extremely influential to the political history of South Africa.
Pride Toronto is an annual event that consists of ten days of celebration culminating in a large parade in the downtown area of Church and Wellesley Village in Toronto, Canada. It is organized by Pride Toronto, which is a non-profit organization in Ontario with multiple functions and members who all collectively work towards an equal and diverse city. Toronto was the host of Worldpride in 2014, at which time the attendance was estimated to be around 2 million people. The event happens every June, unlike the notable Vancouver, Canada pride parade which happens in late August.
Although these are the largest celebrations, there are so many gay pride parades around the world that bring recognition, activism, and celebration to the LGBTQ+ communities in places far and wide. While pride has become a huge mainstream event in many countries, there are still places in the world where homosexuality or any other kind of sexuality or gender-based diversity can be penalized by the law, sometimes even in the form of capital punishment. These events reflect an immense amount of progress as well as the understanding that there is still progress to be made on a global scale. It is important to know the history of gay pride parades and to celebrate by honoring those who risked their lives and fought for equal rights, as well as those who continue to do so today.
What is the pride without music? Read our article about the most iconic gay anthems.
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