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An American tourist: London

When traveling, it could be hard to find a place that offers as much to do as London.

Palaces, parks, museums, theaters, history, (and one hell of a scene) make this city an ultimate hot spot. One of the fascinating things I learned involves the history behind what is now the gay scene.

Prior to homosexuality being as socially acceptable as it is currently, the scene was much smaller and secluded to a district called Earls Court. Although this is still a stomping ground for some, most have moved out of the area. But where did they go? They moved to SOHO- then known as the sex district -which mostly catered to straight businessmen and the like. This area still has remnants of its former illustrious past, but is now caroused by a predominantly gay clientele.

Restaurant after restaurant, club after club, London is popping every night of the week- especially in the SOHO district. Rupert’s Street is a popular bar with the locals and just around the corner from another local favorite, Piccadilly Circus. Both were crowded every single night I walked by.

The scene has become so dynamic and out in London that subcultures in the gay community are venturing out into other parts of the city to establish new districts that cater to the rainbow-loving crowd.

Vauxhall, a district just south of the River Thames, is considered the place to go for the more edgy and “hard-core crowd.” (Visiting the district came highly recommended by quite a few locals.) A few leather and fetish bars (where dress codes are strictly enforced) reside in this area and I decided to check out a place called The Hoist on my only visit.

Very unsure of what to expect, I found just about the raunchiest club I’ve ever been to. Sunday’s are SBN (Stark Bollock Naked) days. Of course unbeknownst to me, this happened to be the day that I went- only to find myself in a dungeon, complete with dark rooms and well lit slings for the exhibitionist or voyeurs in some (all) of us.

But I digress.

Whether it is for shopping, tourism, or just another gay scene, London at Christmas-time is fabulous.

London could be about the gay friendliest city I’ve ever been to. It is not surprising when you think about it, though. London is a huge international city, crazy about tourism, and it is part of a country that allows civil partnerships and gays in the military. Civil partnerships have been legal since 2004, when British parliament passed full rights to civil partners (just as the government does for marriage) including tax and insurance benefits, hospital visitation rights, and parental rights. Additionally, gays have been able to serve openly in the military since 2000 and have done so successfully, along with many other countries in the EU.

Now, almost ten years later, the US is still struggling with the same petty stuff that the majority of the world has seemed to get over.

Somehow, I find myself not surprised- because as I sit with my parents during holiday dinners, they continue to voice their opposition to everything in life I believe in. I imagine I’m not alone in this experience.

So this holiday season- if nothing else, be reminded that there are progressive and open-minded places in the world, and that every day, this country is taking small steps following down that same road.

Happy holidays.