Since becoming a democracy at the end of the 1970s, Spain has made great headway towards equal rights for LGBT people, bolstered in no small way by its entrance in the EC in 1986. The capital city of Madrid is a powerful representation of this dynamic growth and social change, with an integrated and vibrant LBGT community centered in the Chueca District. Madrid is a very open-minded city where personal liberty is respected and embraced. The accepting environment of this Spanish capital will definitely help with the adjustment for studying abroad.
- Spain is one of the few countries in the world to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption. This is a strong reflection of the overall accepting sentiment of the population.
- It is also one of the few countries in which members of the trans community can change their sex on official documents without undergoing sexual reassignment surgery.
- Spain also provides powerful anti-discrimination laws that have been in effect since 1995. These protect individuals in all forms of service both public and private, ensuring the security of all peoples.
- Homosexuality in Madrid is widely visible and increasingly normalized, and the city is generally a very safe and comfortable place for most travelers. It is common to see homosexual couples being open and intimate in public.
- For those who are fluent or speak Spanish, the phrase “Entiendes?” is Castilian lingo for “Are you gay?”
- Madrileños know how to party! If you wish to explore the nightlife of LGBT areas, be prepared to go out late and come home in the morning.
Getting Involved and Informed
Madrid has number of magazines that offer information on the hottest clubs, eateries, and fashion in LGBT culture, like the free, bi-weekly Shanguide and Zero (http://www.zero-web.com), a monthly magazine found at newsstands that provides a more serious political and cultural commentary, along with book and music reviews.
• Berkana Bookshop and Café – http://www.libreriaberkana.com
Tel: +34 915 225 599
Berkana Bookshop is the oldest LGBT bookstore in Chueca, and offers a huge variety of LGBT materials including journals, magazines, novels, calendars, and films.
• COGAM – http://www.cogam.es/
C/ Puebla 9
Tel: +34 915 224 517
COGAM (Colectivo de lesbianas, gays, transexuales y bisexuales de Madrid) offers a variety of services, including email newsletters, hotlines, support groups, information on HIV/AIDS testing, and counseling referrals.
• Fundación Triángulo – http://fundaciontriangulo.es/i_index.htm
C/ Eloy Gonzalo 25
Tel: +34 915 930 540
Fundación Triángulo is another prominent LGBT organization that also offers several volunteer opportunities, including a condom distribution campaign, a youth radio show and magazine, all of which are available to interested NYU in Madrid students.
C/ Gravina, 13 – 28004
Tel: +34 915325206
One of the very well-known clubs in Chueca. This late night hotspot offers a wide variety of music and tends to service a varied crowd both in sexuality and age.
La Lupe de Chueca
A nicely decorated bar with plush couches and mini chandeliers. Offers a diverse list of beverages and delicious snacks to munch on while enjoying the atmosphere and music.
Café la Acuarela
Calle Gravina 10
A cozy café that is known for being off the beaten path. Attracting a diverse and alternative crowd, this is a great place to relax with friends or hang out on your own.
Barcelona –This Catalonian city boasts a strongly integrated LGBT community within a landscape of magnificent architecture. The LGBT village is located in the L’Eixample area (nicknamed “GayEixmple), and is home to many LGBT friendly hostel, clubs, and bars. (http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/gay/gay-barcelona.html)
Torremolinos – A beautiful locale in the Southern region of Andalucía that is a very popular vacation spot for LGBT couples. Spend your days on the beach and your nights at a variety of up-and-coming LGBT clubs and bars.
Valencia – The 3rd largest city in Spain, which besides being famous for festivals like Las Fallas, is regarded as one of the most liberal and LGBT-friendly locations in Spain. Its queer community is centered in the lively artistic neighborhood of Barrio del Carmen.
Taking Part in History
During my five years in Spain, I have been involved with two of Madrid’s LGBT organizations, COGAM and Fundación Triángulo, which along with other organizations were instrumental in Spain’s historic passage of full gay marriage and adoption rights in June 2005, with support of over 70% of the Spanish people. During that same period in the US, the President and other groups supported a radically different agenda: a constitutional amendment to deny Americans those same fundamental rights. When we marched in the Gay Pride Parade through Madrid that summer, it was the first time that I had lived a positive change, where I could feel the before & after. It was inspiring to see that all of the politics and campaigning actually came to something.
Many metropolitan cities have enclaves that welcome LGBT people, like Chueca in Madrid, but few nations can boast a full and equal recognition of the right to marriage and adoption from one corner of the country to the other. While Spain, like most everywhere else, still has a long way to go to achieving equality and dignity for all people, that June we knew that we were marching a little bit closer. Three years on, thousands of gays and lesbians have been married in town halls across Spain and, contrary to the predictions of those who would deny us, Spain is no worse off for it. I only hope the United States follows suit.