Lisbon, Tourism and Gentrification…

.. or why is it time to move to the country?

One of the questions my friends keep asking me is why I don’t just stay in Lisbon. A good question, and here is an attempt to answer it…..

Without a doubt Lisbon is a great city. If you live here, you can be on the beach in a few minutes, the nightlife is top and great food and cheap drinks are available at every corner. Actually a great city to live, one should think. For me personally, however, there are some very decisive factors that slowly convinced me against living in Lisbon: Firstly, my current life goals. And on the other hand, the impending and very much foreseeable consequences of the increasing gentrification here in Lisbon.

Unfortunately, not a day goes by without another report in the newspaper or the news about the effects of gentrification. That’s a pity, of course, because tourism and investment can, if done right, be really good for a city or region. Of course it’s hard to keep a sustainable and slow-advancing middle ground, especially in a country like Portugal, which needs tourists’ income urgently. On the other hand the mass tourism and the gentrification (I connect the two here, even if they are, of course, somewhat different things) destroy exactly what makes the city so attractive. And it’s happening super fast…  Even in the two years I’ve been here I realise every day how hard it is for the folk here. There are certainly more competent sources that give the full account of the consequences, but I notice how strange (i.e. annoying) it is to live in a house in which there are 14 apartments… but only 2 have people really living in them all year round. And more and more restaurants in the area are replacing traditional cuisine with pre-cooked (and Spanish!?) paella…. and the list could continue for a bit.
Gentrification is something I didn’t like about London, and one of the reasons I decided that London has had its day and it was time to leave. However, the gentrification (and also the hype around the city) there seemed to be progressing at a snail’s pace – at least when compared to the pace here in Lisbon!

On the other hand, of course, my personal priorities also have a decisive influence. As an openly gay man, I quite simply assumed, without further questioning, that life in the countryside is rather complicated. And therefore, life in the big city, with all bars, discos and clubs was actually the only viable alternative. Meanwhile I take a more nuanced view: Of course there are a lot of possibilities to meet other gays in the city (and not only gays, of course). On the other hand, however, I also see that, unfortunately, and especially in cities, many people are totally lonely (not only gays of course). And that’s why I think it would be interesting to try “country life”. We’ll see if it works. But I could at least imagine that in the countryside there are fewer “opportunities” to go out and get to know each other, but that contacts become deeper as a result. We will see how and whether this thesis works.

In short, there are these two big reasons to try it now completely outside my “comfort zone”: out of the city, and off to the countryside….. how will it continue? Don’t forget to check back for more updates – soon!

5 ways to have a #GayAutumn in #GayLisbon

It is the sad fact of summer that soon it will come to an end… but that doesn’t mean your autumn has to be boring! On the contrary, there are plenty of great options to make this the most fun autumn ever in #GayLisbon

1. Get cultured…
The iconic gay and a bit else film festival QueerLisboa returns from 15-23 September, jam-packed with great films to watch.

2. Party, party, party…
Downside of August? No parties. So check out Conga, Spit N Polish and Maria Lisboa for the party schedule in autumn.

3. Get social…
Films, parties, concerts, dinners… Add some social events to your life with the Meetup.com LGBT Social Group.

4. Get active…
It is never to late to join BJWHF for some gay rugby and co… or why not join the HikingGays for some walks?

5. Get naked…
Why not show off your sexy tan-lines (or lack of them) at the Hanging Out Nude Portugal group for gay men and make some new friends.

Above all: have a great Autumn!

April in GayLisbon … Eggs and chocolate please!

Getting ready to have eggs and chocolate?  Here are the dates for your GayLisbon diary in April 2017 as far as I could find them. The recommended party of the month: Conga Club… because it is all about getting fit for summer!

Conga Club:
Freedom feels Good
1 April
– check their Facebook or Instagram Page for details

Maria Lisboa
10 Anniversary
7 April
Check their Facebook page for details

Spit ’n Polish:
Silver
8 April
@ Ministerium Club – check their Instagram page for more details

MeetupGroups
International LGBT Network Lisbon
Cusek Bar LGBT Evenings

Sports in Lisbon
Check this post

Centro LGBT:
More details on their Facebook page (in Portuguese)

For an annual overview of events, see annual LGBTQ+ events in Lisbon (useful if you are planning a trip to Lisbon!). To make sure you receive next months list – and all the blog posts in a neat and easy to read format – sign up to my newsletter here (it’s free… and I won’t ever sell your address! Promised!).

For the regulars and a guide to bars, like Finalmente, Trumps, Construction and Co: check Patroc here, or the listing of the best gay bars/clubs in TimeOut Lisboa (in Portuguese).

Got an addition? Get in touch!

February Agenda in GayLisbon

Getting ready to welcome spring?  Here are the parties in Lisbon in February 2017 as far as I could find them. The recommended party of the month: Lesboa Party – not just for girls.

Conga Club:
Sado Maso Disco
4 February
– check their Facebook or Instagram Page for details

Lesboa Party:
Decadence avec Elegance
25 February
– check their Facebook page for details.

Maria Lisboa
Maria Lisboa Airlines
3 February
Check their Facebook page for details

Spit ’n Polish:
White
4 February
@ Ministerium Club – check their Instagram page for more details

Centro LGBT:
More details on their Facebook page (in Portuguese)

LGBT Meetup:
Wednesday Social
01 February
– check the Lisbon LGBT Social Meetup group for more details.
Sunday Drinks (Valentine Special!)
19 February
– check the Lisbon LGBT Social Meetup group for more details.

For an annual overview of events, see annual LGBTQ+ events in Lisbon (useful if you are planning a trip to Lisbon!). To make sure you receive next months list – and all the blog posts in a neat and easy to read format – sign up to my newsletter here (it’s free… and I won’t ever sell your address! Promised!).

For the regulars, like Finalmente, Trumps, Construction and Co: check Lisbon Gay Circuit here.
And Comunidade Queer & Friends on meetup.com has an agenda of various other activities.
Got an addition? Get in touch!

January Agenda in GayLisbon

These are the cooler and/or irregular parties happening in Lisbon in January 2017 as far as I could find them. The most noteworthy: the return of Maria Lisboa – the legendary lesbian and friends club (see below).

For an annual overview of events, see annual LGBTQ+ events in Lisbon (useful if you are planning a trip to Lisbon!). To make sure you receive next months list – and all the blog posts in a neat and easy to read format – sign up to my newsletter here (it’s free… and I won’t ever sell your address! Promised!).

Conga Club:
Fonda!
Sorry… you missed it (on the 30 December) – check their Facebook or Instagram Page for details of the next party (likely early Feb).

Lesboa Party:
Decadence avec Elegance
25 February
– check their Facebook page for details.

Maria Lisboa
NYE Party – return of the iconic Lesbian and friends party legend.
Tonight: 31 December
Check their Facebook page for details

Spit ’n Polish:
– no current date announced – Check @ Ministerium Club

Centro LGBT:
More details on their Facebook page (in Portuguese)

LGBT Meetup:
Wednesday Social
04 January
– check the Lisbon LGBT Social Meetup group for more details.
Sunday Drinks (Valentine Special!)
22 January
– check the Lisbon LGBT Social Meetup group for more details.

For the regulars, like Finalmente, Trumps, Construction and Co: check Lisbon Gay Circuit here.
And Comunidade Queer & Friends on meetup.com has an agenda of various other activities.
Got an addition? Get in touch!

So… what are Portuguese guys like?

“Now that you are in Lisbon… what are the guys like?” seems to be the popular first question I get asked a lot by friends… let’s see if I can cobble together some very unscientific, personal, tongue-in-cheek and totally non-generalisable answers based on my first few months here… Continue reading “So… what are Portuguese guys like?”

Lisbon In Books: The Two Hotel Francforts

It was actually quite a coincidence that I picked up this book… Wandering into the lovely Daunt Bookstore in London, which orders books by the place they are set in, I stumbled across The Two Hotel Francforts. The cover was intriguing, as it showed a couple in the 1940s on Rossio Square – a time that I find quite fascinating for all sorts of reasons (including the fact that my mother happened to be living in Lisbon at that time). Not knowing too much of the book (and the cover not being much of an enlightenment), I decided to give it a read – originally thinking it would be some sort of detective story or spy story, which seemed quite appropriate given the time it is set in.

Well.. I was pretty wrong: what the cover doesn’t give away is that it is actually very much a gay story, albeit of two married men, set in Lisbon. This came as a bit of a surprise to me – although the author has previously written extensively about this (and maybe I should read a review next time before starting to read a book… or does that spoil the fun?).

The basic premise is that two American couples meet in Lisbon. They are refugees fleeing the Nazis via the last open port in Europe – and by coincidence end up in the same café, though living in two very different, but named the same, hotels in Lisbon (yes, there actually were two hotels Francfort in Lisbon – see here for more information and pictures [in Portuguese]).
Just when I wondered where the plot was heading (still expecting a few spies to pop up), on a “boys night out”, the two husband start an affair – all against the backdrop of both couples trying to secure passage out of Lisbon and to America with their wives – and not entirely happy to leave the old continent behind.

I’m not trying to give too much of the plot away, only to say, it does take a lot of unexpected turns. But it is not just the love (or sex?) story that is intriguing and well written… it is also the backdrop of 1940s Lisbon live among people trying to escape – and the description of the atmosphere surrounding this extraordinary situation and time in this city.

As you might expect, this book is not much about Portuguese – nor does it venture much beyond the refugee circles and their life, as none of the characters interacts with locals. Of course, this is very much the story line, and although this could be read as somewhat disappointing, it would only be so if you expect a character study of the Portuguese. Don’t expect much in terms of local habits or local psyche… even Salazar and his policies only appear in very small doses. If you see the book as an atmospheric description of life as (very wealthy) refugees in this strange neutral country – then you will love it… if you happen to read it in Lisbon, you’ll be even more intrigued as it talks about some of the places which are still here, taking into account how they were at that time. For example, there is a lot of talk about Pastelaria Suiça… the way the author talks about it is very much how my mother talked about it. If you look at what I’d call one of the worst tourist traps on Rossio square today, you wonder why anyone would want to be there – but those were different times, and the author does well in reviving them.

Overall, if you are interested in any of these:
– Lisbon in the 1940s
– wealthy people fleeing the Nazis
…or just want to read a gay (I’m not sure I’d call it love-)story…
this is your book. If all three interest you – you’ll have trouble putting the book down.
And although it had no murders and spies, as I originally thought, I definitely enjoyed reading it tremendously.

David Leavitt (2013), The Two Hotels Francfort, New York: Bloomsbury USA

A short history of Gay Portugal – From the Carnation Revolution until Today

IMG_7071The Carnation Revolution swept away the fascist regime of the Estado Novo on April 25, 1974. However, despite the return to democracy and fundamental changes in Portuguese society, advancement to become one of the most liberal countries worldwide in terms of gay rights was a slow progress.

First gay rights organisations emerged shortly after the Carnation Revolution.  Although homosexuality was still technically illegal, Lisbon started to have a more open gay scene. Although unofficially gay bars had existed in the Bairro Alto district, bars and clubs became more overt following the revolution: Lisbon’s oldest, still existing gay bar, Finalmente, opened its doors in 1976, presenting nightly drag shows until today. MHAR, Movimento Homossexual de Acção Revolucionária was the first official LGBTI+ organisation, established just one month after the April revolution.However, these organisations lacked support of both the government as well as a support base in the traditionally more progressive left-wing parties. Nevertheless, homosexuality was decriminalised, between consenting adults, in 1982.

avAs in other countries AIDS changed the face of gays in Portugal: National organizations such as the Comissão Nacional de Luta Contra a SIDA [National Commission for the Fight against AIDS] and the charity Abraço brought increased visibility to gay life. The death of António Variações, a high musician, as a result of AIDS, widely  shocked Portuguese society in 1984.

During the 1990s, gay life in Portugal underwent dramatic changes: The Partido Socialista Revolucionário (a predecessor of today’s Left Bloc Party) was the first political party to call for an end to machismo, homophobia and discrimination in 1991. Organisations, still active today were established: ILGA Portugal, established in 1995, and Opus Gay (1999) emerged, and Lisbon became home to the first Arraial Pride in 1997 – and the  Marcha Nacional do Orgulho LGBT. The LGBT Centre of Lisbon opened in 1997, and, also in 1997 the first film festival established in the Portuguese capital was the “Festival de Cinema Gay e Lésbico de Lisboa”,  known as QueerLisboa.

The new Millennium
If changes during the 1990s were seismic and dramatically changes in attitudes, the new millennium saw an increased focus on establishing equal rights, particularly in the eyes of the law: In 2001 civil partnerships between same-sex couples were introduced. In 2003, workplace discrimination was outlawed. In 2004, the original constitution of 1975 was amended to prohibit any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in 2007 the Penal Code was amended to exclude all mentioning of homosexuality and amended to include specific laws criminalising  discrimination because of sexual orientation  and laws in relation to homophobic crimes.  From 2009 mandatory sex education in schools started to include LGBTI+-related topics, and in 2010 the blood donation ban for gay and bisexual men was lifted. Marriage equality was achieved in 2010, although this originally excluded the right to adopt children. This last restriction was lifted in 2015, and the right to adopt children was granted to same-sex couples. Finally, in 2016, assisted reproductive technology, such as invitro-fertilisation was allowed for lesbian couples (and single women).

Today, Portugal ranks as one of the most liberal countries in Europe according to the ILGA Rainbow Europe ranking. Jointly with Spain, it holds the 4th position in Europe with a human rights score of 70%, just behind Denmark, and ahead of countries like Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands.

Please bear in mind that I’m not a historian (nor Portuguese for that matter…), but just compiled this based on my reading. It would be great if you could add any omissions or corrections below! Thanks!… Of course, I also realise that I have mostly focused on gay items. I hope I can find out more about lesbian and trans history in the future and share it here!

A short history of Gay Portugal – Middle Ages to Estado Novo

IMG_7071Life under the Inquisition
There are many surviving documents about gay life under the Inquisition, most of it stored in the National Archives of Torre do Tombo.  Although the Inquisition tried hard to quell gay life and culture, there are references to transvestite shows to be found in the archives of the time, and references to men impersonating women as sex workers.

Living under the constant threat of being discovered, gays also started to adopt a specific language (much like the much later Polari found in the UK). Using terms not usually associated with sexual activity, such “hunting” to describe looking for sex or “being in the afternoon” to describe another gay person, prevented people ‘not in the know’ from understanding the verbal code used to communicate.

18/19th Century
The age of enlightenment brought an end to the rule of the Inquisition, and it slowly lost its grip on Portuguese society. However, while the enlightenment brought many advances, wider society was still influenced strongly by Catholic moral ideas and the influence of the Catholic church remained strong.

The reformed penal code of 1852 did not contain any references to homosexual acts, effectively legalising them. However, social morals still remained skewed against gays, although homosexual acts did not lead to the same scandalous consequences as in other countries at the time. This tolerance gave Portugal the status of a comparatively liberal country, at least when compared to countries such as Germany or the UK where gays were openly prosecuted by the police at the time and homosexuality was a crime (e.g. Germany recriminalised homosexual acts in 1871, in the UK, homosexual acts have been illeagal since 1533).

This relative liberal outlook lead to some pioneering works about homosexuality being published within the Portuguese Empire at the time. This included works such as A Inversão Sexual, by Adelino Silva, which, when published in 1895, was one of the first works to analyze ‘scientifically’ the topic of homosexuality (by comparison, Magnus Hirschfeld’s work “Die Homosexualität Des Mannes Und Des Weibes” was published almost twenty years later, in 1914). Despite of this, homosexuality was still often seen as a mental illness which needed to be treated. For example, Egas Moniz, the first Portuguese nobel laureate and inventor of the highly controversial lobotomy, classified homosexuality as a mental illness, and counseled that it should be cured like any other mental illness (which, in his case, presumably involved drilling holes into heads of patients).

The First Republic
The end of the monarchy in Portugal, and the establishment of the First Republic in 1910, didn’t change much in terms of societal attitudes towards gays and homosexuality. While homosexuality remained technically legal, interest in it came mainly from a medical perspective: Assuming that it was an illness and needed treatment. As such, books which appeared to condone homosexuality were often banned or seized. Much in contrast to the more liberal attitudes of the rest of Europe, Portuguese society in the 1920s became more conservative: In fact, Portugal was the only European country not to send any delegates to the World League for sexual Reform initiated by Magnus Hirschfeld in London in 1929.

The Estado Novo

Júlio Fogaça
Júlio Fogaça

After Salazar established the authoritarian regime of the Estado Novo in 1933, things took a predictable turn for the worse: Salazar advocated a return to Catholic doctrine and conservative values. Gender roles were reverted to become more traditional, and all expressions of sexuality outside of marriage were frowned upon. Sexual expression was seen as subversive and books, scripts or other artistic works advocating any form of sexual expression outside of marriage and as a means to reproduction were systematically censored, and artists, writers and advocates were criminalized.

In 1954, homosexuality was recriminalised, with people engaging in “crimes against nature” facing being being locked up in mental asylums or condemned to hard labour. The Portuguese secret state police PIDE systematically hunted homosexuals or spread rumors about opposition and resistance fighters, including famously the then president of the opposition Portuguese Communist Party Júlio Fogaça. Fogaça subsequently was expelled by the Communist Party, while serving a prison sentence, in 1961 under the pretext of homosexual conduct.

Please bear in mind that I’m not a historian (nor Portuguese for that matter…), but just compiled this based on my reading. It would be great if you could add any omissions or corrections below! Thanks!…Of course, I also realise that I have mostly focused on gay items. I hope I can find out more about lesbian and trans history in the future and share it here!
>> Next time… The Carnation Revolution to modern-day Portugal.