Who would have thought? A tiny South American nation whose name we hardly hear outside of the soccer World Cup has one of the most revolutionary policies towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people of any nation in the world. Marriage between individuals of any sex or sexual identification was engendered into law in 2013; they had been allowed to enter into civil unions since 2008 and adopt since 2009.
The capital, Montevideo, is the center of the LGBT scene and one of the few places in the world with its own ‘homo-monument’. Situated in a snug plaza of Montevideo’s Old City, this triangular-shaped block of rose-colored granite was erected in 2005. Into it is inscribed the line ‘To Honor Diversity is to Honor Life’.
This open and welcoming attitude to the LGBT community did not have to be set in stone, so to speak, for Montevideans to be accepting of alternate lifestyles. In fact, the ‘rambla’, the 15-mile promenade that runs along the River Plate has been a popular hangout for many openly-gay couples for a long time.
Observers note that the accepting attitude has filtered into society because the LGBT community has endeavored to stay away from the creation of ‘gay areas’. This has allowed them to become a part of the normal social fabric everywhere instead of being relegated to specific areas as is common in other cities around the world.
It is because of this openness, perhaps, that Montevideo does not have as strong a gay bar and club scene as other cities with similar accepting attitudes like Sydney and San Francisco. There is, however, one name that is recognized as its premier gay nightspot – Cain. It features an eclectic mix of both people and music genres, and consists of multiple levels of dance floors.
If you want to soak up some Latin American sun, head down to any beach – the open attitude of the city continues to the shoreline. There is an especially-conducive stretch called Furiferia which is frequented by wealthy foreigners and many locals looking for a brief dalliance or the start of a more meaningful relationship.
Montevideo’s place as a forerunner of LGBT-friendliness is cemented by its annual Gay Pride Parade. Known as ‘Marcha por la Diversidad’ which translates as ‘March for Diversity’, this event is held on the last Friday of September and attracts over 20,000 participants and observers.
The Diversity March is the culmination of a month of sexual diversity programs organized by the Ministry of Tourism that includes fairs, conferences, talks and a variety of inclusive activities.