Things to do
We’re big on the great outdoors here, and all the myriad activities – including mountaineering, biking, rafting, kayaking and just good ole’ fashioned walking – can be done on organised trips with kindred spirits. The Gay Outdoor Club and Outdoor Lads both offer an excellent ways in which to meet nice people and see terrific landscapes.
Best in the west
Aberystwyth has long had a reputation as the west’s most LGBT-friendly town, and once topped Stonewall’s annual survey of Britain’s most LGBT+ friendly universities. Much of this is due to the stalwart efforts of the uni’s LGBT society, who are heavily involved in Mid Wales Pride, a weekend of comedy, music, drama, fashion and partying, celebrating pride throughout the local community.
Dylan Thomas’ birthplace always scores high on student satisfaction surveys, thanks to its laid-back seaside ambience. There’s a small but lively scene in Swansea, largely based on its High Street where you’ll find The Kings Arms pub and Pulse nightclub. The Swansea Sparkle event is the focus for the transgender community every November, while Swansea Pride regularly pulls thousands to Singleton Park on the last Saturday in June.
The Iris Prize
This international gay and lesbian film festival takes place in Cardiff each October, with new feature films, panel sessions, parties and screenings of all 30 short films that compete for the £25,000 Iris Prize itself. Iris is more than a prize and a festival – it’s a global family of 19 partner festivals located in 13 countries. It’s also, in our experience, a really fun time to be out and about in Cardiff.
Welsh organisations and people
In 2018 Stonewall named The National Assembly for Wales, now the Welsh Parliament, the number one LGBT+ friendly places to work in the UK.
A deserved shout out to Stonewall’s Welsh outpost, which does sterling work in supporting every aspect of LGBT+ life, whether it’s at home, work and school, campaigning for equality, fighting for justice, helping families, offering advice to anyone who asks, and generally making Wales a nicer place for all of us to live in.
Gareth Thomas: rugby legend
The life story of the Wales and British Lions rugby captain Gareth Thomas is so extraordinary, the film rights were snapped up by Hollywood star Mickey Rourke. Alfie, as Thomas is universally known, remains arguably the most high-profile openly gay professional sportsman worldwide and has won numerous awards for his campaigning stance against homophobia. It’s not strictly relevant, but we love the fact that Wales’ most prominent gay man is also one of the rock-hardest blokes to pull on a Welsh jersey. He’s nails.
Nigel Owens, we salute you
When the international rugby referee, Nigel Owens, came out in 2007, the notoriously rufty-tufty Welsh rugby community, to its credit, shrugged its shoulders and got on with it. It helps that Owens is an engaging character - he’s done stand-up comedy in both English and his first language, Welsh - and also happens to be, by common consent, the world’s best referee.
Owens’ empathy for rugby seems to produce more brilliant matches than any other ref (case in point: the 2013 South Africa v New Zealand game), but he’s also a towering authority figure on the pitch - check out this classic clip of Owens dishing out a stupendous ticking-off.
The Pembrokeshire-born novelist writes very good books which just happen to have lesbian protagonists. Her novels, which include Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, have won multiple awards and been successfully adapted for film, to popular acclaim. As Waters says, ‘I don't sit down at my desk every morning thinking, 'I am a lesbian writer.' Most of my working life is spent grappling with words and stories – and at that point I am simply 'a writer', like any other writer. In other words, lesbian passions and issues are there in my books in the same way that they are there in my life: they are both vitally important to me, and completely incidental.’
Russell T Davies
Queer as Folk was the breakthrough drama that really made Russell T’s name, but since then this towering figure in British TV has revived Doctor Who to huge critical acclaim, and created spin-off hits like The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood, filmed in and around Cardiff. Recent work includes Cucumber, a drama about a group of middle-aged LGBT+ friends and former activists in the Manchester scene. All in all, not a bad CV for the boy from Swansea.