I know what you’re thinking. Gay + Prague = Porn. Believe it not, there are gay people in Prague who have not been in porn. Even young twinky ones. Mind blown?
Prague has a very healthy gay community. Prague Pride is large and conflict-free. Gay bars don’t have to hide. I saw couples holding hands in public without being burned at the stake – though one woman stopped and stared with such intensity I thought it might have induced a stroke.
Part of the reason for the relative openness is the country’s irreligiousness. A famous survey several years ago found that more Czechs believe in UFOs than God. I’ll let that sink in for a moment and then let you imagine all of the religiously offensive jokes I’m choosing not to make right now.
The general impression among the gay people here, though, is that it’s not so much an indication of the embracing of LGBTs by the Czech people. It’s more indifference. Czechs go along to get along and leave each other be. Not a terrible way to run a culture, if you ask me.
It makes for a strange sort of combination of openness and closed-off-ed-ness (just go with it) in the Czech Republic.
Prague has had a rough history. It was the (arguable) birthplace of the Thirty Years’ War between Catholics and Protestants when some priests got thrown out of a window over a cliff. I know, I know, it’s some people’s fantasy, but did I mention it started a thirty year war?
Much later, they finally got independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I just in time to be occupied by the Nazis a few years later, which wasn’t superfuntime. And many of its landmarks suffered especially hard during World
War II bombing (including its famous clock).
Communism after the war wasn’t super awesome either. The Prague Spring – though awfully sunshiny and happy sounding – was actually a very dispiriting refusal of the Soviets to allow communist reform in Czechoslovakia. They brought in tanks to make their point. It worked. Tanks are usually good for making a point.
Post-communism, the Czech Republic has a reputation for being more open than much of Central and Eastern Europe, as I mentioned before. But to a certain extent that impression came from post-Iron Curtain fetishization of exotic and unknown Easterners by Westerners, both gay and straight. Sex tourism became common almost immediately, which still has an impact on the gay community here. Prague was/is an especially common destination for it, maybe because it’s the closest “Eastern” city – called “Eastern” even though it’s northwest of Vienna and almost directly south of Berlin.
That being said, there is a great scene here if you’re able to break through. Some bars felt much more open to foreigners than others, but really isn’t that the case anywhere? I was able to find plenty of friendly people to hang out with.
There were some bars at which I felt very welcome, but there were others at which it was very clear that I was not welcome. Which brings us back to ‘open and closed.’ That was very much my experience of gay Prague.