I Have Seen the Future and it is Queer: Gay in Stockholm


Scandinavia is well-known as a progressive bastion even among the generally progressive northern and western European countries.  So I guess when I came to Stockholm I kind of expected the gay community to be strongly visible and easy to find.  But I didn’t really find that to be the case.  What I discovered was that the gay community was so well integrated into society, gay spaces were much fewer and apparently less needed.

It’s a phenomenon we’re starting to see in the U.S. and other countries where the gay community is starting to be more accepted as well.  Gay bars are closing.  Gayborhoods are dying.  Gay people don’t have to feel uncomfortable in not-specifically-gay social spaces in many places.  You can argue about whether or not that’s a good thing (that’s an article for another day) but it’s hard to argue that’s not what’s happening.

Since Scandinavia has been moving in that direction for longer, it makes sense that they would be further along in the assimilation process.  I found fewer gay bars and cafes and other LGBT spaces than I would expect in a similarly-sized city.  And there were rainbow flags over businesses that did not seem to be, from the outside, gay businesses – or at least not specifically gay ones.

Which makes for a pretty mellow scene.  Stockholm seems to generally be a pretty low-key city.  I’m sure there’s a party scene to be found but it’s not immediately apparent, especially as far as the gay scene goes.  And here’s where I contradict myself because there was apparently a really large leather event while I was there.  The dress code was very strict so I wasn’t able to go. (What, am I supposed to carry full leather all around Europe with me?  Also, I don’t really have leather anyway, so there’s that.) But I got the impression this was a very rare event.

None of this is to say, though, that the gay community is so integrated it’s invisible.  I went to a history museum and was surprised to see queer perspectives on the country’s history scattered throughout the entire museum.  In every room, there was a display titled “Invisible History” with commentary from a queer point of view.  Some commented on what it would have been like for a gay person in a given period of time.  One pointed out the ambiguous sexuality of a couple of historical figures.  It was pointed out that archaeologists’ preconceived notions and cultural socialization influenced their interpretation of the lifestyles of prehistorical people.  Can you imagine any of these points being made in Middle America?  I can’t.

Stockholm is our future, people.  It’s a place where being LGBTQ is a non-issue.  Except at a history museum.


On a side-note: If you really feel like gay-ing it up while in Stockholm, there’s this:


That’s right, the ABBA Museum.  They have a museum.  For ABBA.  Not really my thing, but I have a feeling I have just lost a lot of you to Expedia.  You’re not reading anymore, are you?  Nope, you’re gone.