As we approach the One Year Anniversary of the lockdown for most of us with the welcome arrival of a bunch of successful vaccines and their roll out globally it is time to look forward positively to the fetish scenes rebirth hopefully through the rest of 2021. Of course, there are many caveats (see below) but with daily new announcements of Gay events in the Summer and early fall hoping to go ahead at last we wanted to do the First of a number of overviews as regarding the state of play…which will of course continually change with brave promoters sticking their flags on certain days, other events changing dates and some cancellations too as guidance from authorities alter or god forbid the mutations increase. We spoke to many scene people across the globe from Sydney to San Francisco and from Tel Aviv to Dublin at the end of Feb to see what was happening as regards the gay fetish world opening up….some are very optimistic whereas others are much more cautious.
What is clear is that the re-opening of the gay world will be led by the PRIDES with many now firmly fixed on rigid dates in the 2021 diaries with outdoor things being the most likely.
We are an International magazine and what is happening in one territory will be a very different story elsewhere but there are patterns. The basic see-saw of the pandemic that has and continues to be wrestled with is the balance between saving lives and the need to save our economies, jobs, well-being, mental state and social lives. We appreciate that many of our readers will be strongly on one side or the other on that see-saw and we respect all views but at some point even though C19 is here to stay and be ‘managed’ we will have to get things back happening partially or fully.
There are a few basics which we have learnt that we can now benefit from. The vaccines are incredible and a scientific miracle, they do work and are lifesavers furthermore masks work as does social distancing and hand washing. It now is universally thought that Covid has a very tough time indeed transmitting in any way outdoors which will be a big factor as we open up. Of course, many Countries have had an ‘easier’ ride with the pandemic than others and likewise some are doing much better at the vaccine roll-out than others too and this together with possible ‘vaccine passports’ and/or improved testing both domestically and Internationally will mean that we will all have to check online regularly to keep up with the state of play…but at last there is a lot of Good News out there. Who knew for example that wearing masks and hand washing was good for us and has resulted in the quietest Flu season for decades?. Information on all of the Worlds 195 Countries Pandemic rules can be found online and although it is wonderful that the likes of Singapore, New Zealand and Taiwan have been hugely successful in managing Covid 19 they with the greatest of respects are not major gay and or fetish destinations so our attention must be drawn to those Countries that are more prominent on the queer traveller’s map and wish list.
Out of the 210 Million doses of vaccine administered in 93 Countries since January (which is fucking incredible) the 10 doing the best do include some very important gay fetish destinations so should be off and running earlier all being well. Of course, we are pleased that UAE, Bahrain and Iceland are going gangbusters with vaccinations but they are not important parts of the gay fetish world tbh but luckily the other 7 are namely Israel, UK, USA, Ireland, Denmark (The home of 2021’s World Pride in Copenhagen), Italy and Spain and give us a lot of scope for early gay gatherings. For those wishing to travel for sin this Summer those 7 may be your best bets looking from this March 1st vantage point.
It is a thousand times easier to reopen a gay bar than it is to put on an International circuit party. Leather bars can be re-opened according to many owners with about a weeks’ notice whereas events and clubs need to advertise, sell tickets and sign contracts meaning tough decisions have to be made many months beforehand which is of course a lottery at the moment. Therefore, keep your eye on your social media and your local bar websites for the latest News and have faith as these will be well managed to protect your health so probably safer than in your local supermarket or other necessary venues that have been open throughout. Just as we were writing this one of the largest gay cruising bars in Spain, the infamous ‘Hole’ in Maspalomas re-opened its doors (with late night restrictions & some booking requirements) and there are many others now joining it. Under current regulations well known bars like The Boots in Antwerp are hoping to open on May 1st at the earliest and that last word should often be remembered when you see dates advertised just requiring you to check back in regularly in case there are delays in lifting restrictions. All these owners want their bars open and will work day and night once the starting pistol is fired by their health authorities and without question they will be the first fetish meeting places back. American Sunday beer busts many of which are outdoors will be an early starter. Fetish retailers will of course if not already be open even before the the bars but we need somewhere to go in our new horny purchases, so it is news on events, saunas and clubs which are the most anticipated .
As we have reported many times the Pride season starts down under in February and runs right through the year to the horny sloppy seconds of the likes of Palm Springs in November….they are in fact a whole year thing. Of course, June is the peak being ‘Pride Month’. We were hoping that the first major one could be Gran Canaria Pride in early May but have since learnt that for a second year it has gone passing the baton and high hopes onto the one often quoted by journalists as the World’s best with Tel Aviv pride at the start of June…both Spain and Israel are as mentioned above doing well in the list of vaccination territories…GC is helped by being a small island but its event is massive for overseas visitors whereas Israel when things go ahead will be helped by enforced Covid vaccination wristbands/passports. As the motherlode of Prides hit from then onwards, we believe many will happen although with some restrictions and of course the warm weather and outdoor element makes them less problematic than say indoor clubs and dark rooms….other Prides will unfortunately be postponed for a Second year. The other thing we are now seeing is date changing with for example the top well known 4 Prides in the UK (who has a massively vaccine roll out and uptake) all going ahead at this stage with Manchester and Brighton already selling tickets whilst London and Birmingham have both moved their parties from their traditional early Summer slots to new one-off dates in September……which in 2021 may actually become ‘The New Pride Month’. A good example is Amsterdam Pride which is happening from 31st July and is confirmed which means that its big-name parties like Funhouse and Rapido are on and are selling tickets at the time of writing. The promoters we spoke to in various locations said that there is such a pent-up demand for social interaction that ticket sales are already through the roof for announced events and that those that want to come out of lockdown safely are reaching for their credit cards for both parties and flights alike. We note that although Glastonbury in the UK has been cancelled for 2021 that 8 other Summer music festivals in that territory are going ahead and seeing absolute record sales……it again comes back to this very limited open air transmission thing and warmer temperatures.
Gay Europe tends to focus on the ‘Big Mediterranean 5’ namely Ibiza, Sitges/Barcelona, Mykonos, Gran Canaria and Tel Aviv and luckily for us all of them are in countries racing ahead of many others with their vaccine roll-outs so expect all of them to be busy from the start of June onwards (fingers crossed). Of course, to travel Internationally in a pandemic there are 2 sides to the equation – what is the situation and rules in your departing country and what are they in the one you plan to visit. Greece for various reasons has got off light in the pandemic and is already saying they will welcome visitors but they may be required to have a vaccine passport or test. We spoke to one gay operator in hugely popular gay destination – Mykonos who said that the demand to visit the island in 2021 is the highest he has ever known and his website has crashed more than once in February. So, it seems if you want a gay holiday in the European sun this year then it looks more than possible….just not in March, April & May.
The biggest fetish events in Europe are in Germany, France, Belgium, Spain UK & Ireland and the Netherlands. As regular readers of our AT Fetish calendar will know there are loads of events in the first half of the year up until May and then in the fall from the 2 Folsom’s onwards. In-between during the Summer months everything is handed over to Prides. Under the vaccination timetable anything beyond a bar this side of June 1st means you will need a lot of luck and we really feel for our favourite Circuit parties at this time of year like Easter Week in Berlin, Bear Week and Sleazy Madrid which will be hit for 2 successive years which we hope is not terminal and that they will all be back bigger and stronger in 2022. In the Summer there are a couple of events on the table, London Fetish Week usually in July which would be allowed under current UK regulations but we have not yet heard either way from Recon towers on that. Also, there is Circuit Barcelona in August (With the Worlds most famous pool party) which so nearly went ahead in 2020 so we have no doubt will go on this year. A lot more should happening in as per usual in the Fall (with restrictions maybe on numbers etc) but will cruising areas be allowed? will we have to wear masks in dark rooms or have tests and jab passports…time will tell.
If Europe has the Big 5 then America has the Big 8 namely Hawaii, Russian River, Palm Springs, Puerto Vallarta, Key West, Fort Lauderdale, Fire island and Provincetown. Now as of January 20th we have the adults back in charge in the White House and improvements with the pandemic are going superfast but of course the USA does have the highest number of Vaccine sceptics and deniers (Thanks Donald, QAnon and Sean Hannity) so that bridge to normality or ‘herd immunity’ has to be crossed. To many the USA has not locked down properly throughout the pandemic and been chasing its tail ever since not helped by Mr Trump asking for things to be opened up immediately just a mere 14 days after the First ‘lockdown’ was imposed a year ago resulting in the worst death rates and Covid stats on the planet. If there is a positive from this then opening up (when you never really shut) is much easier and quicker so all gay destinations will have a busy Summer with some restrictions. It does vary massively from state to state with the likes of California and New York doing tougher ‘lockdowns’ whereas the likes of Florida and Texas hardly bothering at all….who knew that in Florida wrestling was as vital as supermarkets and had to stay open and in Texas everything from Cinemas to gun shops were classed as vital for our existence in a pandemic. At present there is almost restrictive testing required for Hawaii. Palm Springs comes under tough California restrictions but is now looking good as does Russian River but as they are so open and spread out making outdoor dining and outdoor gyms straight forward and easier so we expect will be comfortable in just weeks with everything back. The 2 Florida gay destinations are basically as if nothing has happened in the last 12 months and the 2 upper East Coast resorts which are entirely seasonal (May to September) should be very busy. Which leaves Puerto Vallarta down in Mexico which as many will know has been free and easy throughout – lockdown what lockdown, pandemic what pandemic! The infamous White Party which was held over New Year resulting in the rise of the shaming platform ‘Gays over Covid’ and many losing their jobs back home has gone into folklore but with numerous porn shoots going on there and loads off people visiting already etc it is partying like it is 1999 and will we expect stay that way.
Let’s start with the bad news Up Your Alley/Dore Alley Fair 2021 in San Franciso usually in July has already been cancelled but what of the rest. As far as the gay fetish world is concerned North America is made up of 52 ‘Countries’….Mexico, Canada and the 50 States of the USA. All of these have widely varying rules but the easy 2 are Mexico (see above) and Canada both of which are on course for a pretty open Pride and fall season and we don’t expect a ton of cancellations. Some smaller Summer fetish events and large Prides will go ahead and we will report back on those but we are most watching the decision coming late March/early April on whether Folsom SF will happen in late September in some form when the board sits. IML and IMBootblack as most will know for one-year only has moved from May to November and we have a very hard confirmation that MIR25 in Chicago is definitely on in the Fall too. Keeping positive we know Smokeout in Tampa is on in October and we expect Pig Week FTL to be its busiest ever as will Leatherpride Palm Springs and of course MAL 2022 is very firmly on in January and will be its usual sleazy and fun self we expect. Check all the websites regularly as guys and promoters are fighting to get doors open for you and sometimes there will not be as much notice as we are used too but if they are on the owners will make them a very safe and legal space we have no doubt so you can partake safely..
This is as mentioned the first overview and things are changing fast, for those concerned about the spread of the disease and who think any opening up early is a bad thing we are not advocating that just reporting on what is happening and is likely to happen for those that wish to get vaccinated or have had Covid and indeed attend bars, clubs and events when legally allowed to do so under all official guidance. We. are not a political or scientific magazine and likewise we are not politicians and scientists but we do have great scene contacts and can bring you the best information from behind the scenes we can of what current expectations are. BUT things will change as maybe vaccine roll-outs will speed up, maybe Vaccine passports to events will become a game changer, maybe forward or even better backward tracing is improved or maybe the virus will mutate again and therefore all dates, venues and events could have more problems. Get the vaccine please when you are called as it is the most logical and easy way back as herd immunity requires over 90% of people to be vaccinated or have had the disease and C19 is likely to be around and be a factor right through our generation. Interesting times but we do believe that the clock has now started ticking on the gay fetish world’s re-opening.
STAY SAFE AND ABIDE BY ANY LOCAL RULES AND GUIDANCES, WEAR MASKS, SOCIALLY DISTANCE WHERE POSSIBLE PLUS WASH HANDS AND WHEN READY LET’S SGET OUT THERE & SAVE OUR INTERNATIONAL FETISH ECONOMY WITHOUT RISKING LIVES. LET’S BE POSITIVE IN OUR OUTLOOK, LET’S ALL ‘DO OUR BIT’ AS WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER AND EVERY SINGLE MASK CAN,DOES & WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE…..and let’s face it mask wearing in the fetish world is pretty common for many of us anyway in our leather, rubber and puppy wardrobes and sex games.