Malmö is Sweden’s ‘gay heart that pumps love’

A gay-friendly city is somewhere that’s supportive of LGBTQ people and their relationships. But what if everyone was welcome everywhere, regardless of their sexual orientation? That’s how it is in Malmö, Sweden’s ‘alternative city’ and the heart of queer life in the Öresund region.

Published: Tue 22 May 2018 08:29 CEST
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Like many young Brits, Nathan Lloyd decided to up sticks following the Brexit referendum. Along with his partner Tom, who is a teacher, the couple wasted no time in searching for a new home elsewhere in Europe.

“We thought ‘we are going to try to be as European as possible while we still can’”, recounts the 24-year-old food blogger.

Nathan and Tom were familiar with Malmö as they had already visited friends living in the city three times previously. So when a job came up for Tom in Lund, which is just 15 minutes from Malmö by train, they took the plunge and relocated.

“We haven’t regretted our decision and have both thrown ourselves into the community here,” says Nathan, describing his fellow Malmö dwellers as “incredibly supportive”.

Start planning your trip to Malmö

But the extraordinary thing about Malmö’s gay community, notes Nathan, is that it isn’t really a ‘gay community’ at all. There’s no divide or segregation, instead, the city has become a melting pot of sub-groups who all exist happily side by side.

“In general, the entire community in Malmö is very interlinked. It’s like one big family whether that’s networking or LGBTQ,” explains Nathan.

Bee Kök & Bar. Photo: Nathan Lloyd

He adds that there are a couple of dedicated LGBT bars and nightclubs, namely Bee Kök & Bar and Wonk, but no matter your sexual orientation you can step foot in any establishment and know you’ll be welcome.

“Unlike Manchester or Berlin where there is a designated gay area, Malmö is all-inclusive. There aren’t gay-friendly areas here, the whole city is queer-friendly.”

That’s not to say there aren’t events and meetups aimed specifically at the LGBTQ community. In fact, there are plenty with more popping up all the time.

From Lesbisk Frukost, a monthly breakfast where lesbians are invited to talk about lesbianism and meet other inspiring women, to Wish Malmö, a BDSM association for women, transgender and intersexual people, there are many safe, welcoming spaces for people of all interests and inclinations.

With its rebellious undercurrent, Malmö is the perfect setting to launch what may be considered more risqué ventures.

Start planning your trip to Malmö

Capitalising on the revival of burlesque, a friend of Nathan’s has started a queer burlesque evening which is making a name for itself in the city. Last year in November, the eclectic group performed at the afterparty for the European roller derby championship which was hosted in Malmö.

“It’s called Queer Cult Burlesque; they’re all queer or trans,” says Nathan.

Of course, no gay-friendly city would be complete without its own annual pride event. Each summer, Malmö Pride hosts a vibrant celebration that promotes non-discriminatory acceptance and equality. It’s a true demonstration of Malmö’s spirit that isn’t reserved for the local queer community.

“What was refreshing to see was that, although Malmö Pride isn’t as established as London or Brighton Pride, there were families going along. Mothers were there with their newborns were there too, it was a very nice and welcoming feeling,” recalls Nathan.

Malmö Pride's stall at Mitt Möllan. Photo: Nathan Lloyd

Malmö Pride association, which is responsible for planning the event, also maintains a conspicuous presence throughout the rest of the year. Its continual visibility ensures visitors to Malmö know that the city is an all-inclusive hub regardless of their sexual orientation.

The association also gives a platform to queer artists and designers, helping them to get their names out there and reach a wider audience.

“You’ll often find in the markets like Mitt Möllan’s spring market or Christmas market that Malmö Pride will have a store. There are plenty of participating artists and a lot do their own queer line,” says Nathan.

While the whole city of Malmö is a beehive of queer events and activities, it’s also nestled in between two of the other gay hubs in the Öresund region. Its nearness to Copenhagen and Lund makes it an excellent base for visitors who want to explore the wider LGBTQ scene.

“You have Copenhagen basically right next door and Lund the other way. There’s always something going on and so many queer events. In my experience, it beats London [as a queer-friendly city] as there’s just far more at your fingertips.”

In 2021, Malmö and neighbouring Copenhagen are joining forces to co-host WorldPride, the world’s largest pride event. It’s the first time ever the event will be shared by two cities in two different countries and up to half a million people are expected to travel for the celebrations.

In the meantime, Malmö will be gearing itself up over the coming years, preparing to show the world that it’s one of Europe’s most authentic gay capitals. Although in Nathan’s opinion, it’s already doing a laudable job in that department.

“Malmö is like a gay heart that pumps energy and events and love.”

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by Malmö stad.


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