I've read that the Castro in San Francisco is undergoing a re-gentrification - by young nuclear families with children. I'm all for the idea of kids growing up in diverse communities, but the Castro gay people don't have a lot of sacred ground in this world; how can this be happening? My non-gay acupuncturist just returned from Maui. He told me that many gay men left San Francisco for Maui and are now in great evidence there. For years there has been an influx of gay people to cities like, for example, Seattle, but they don't rate the gay mecca title.
It's partly because of these population shifts that I was thrilled to return to Cape Cod after 19 years to find that Provincetown's essence is intact. I loved being there again in the rain, in the wind, under the sun and in the sometimes raucous nights out on Commercial Street.
Of course, it didn't hurt that my happy return to the vacation land of my younger years was preceded by a visit to my family. This was the first time I'd ever brought a partner home to meet them. They literally welcomed my Sweetheart with open arms. It took over six decades, but I finally feel part of my birth family.
Then my Sweetheart and I went to visit some of her friends and we met up with my best friend of 43 years. I look at the pictures of our few hours at lunch in Rhode Island and my heart swells at the sight of this expanding gay family of ours.
It's no exaggeration to say that I sailed into PTown on - if not cloud 9, then at least cloud 8.5. I reached the nine level when we spotted my publisher and sister author, Radclyffe of Bold Strokes Books, zip by, waving, as we walked to the natural food market. This was yet another new family for me -- a family of writers, editors and readers I could not have imagined when I came out. Better still, there was a whole town filled with us - it was Ptown's annual Women's Week.
As the week went by I kept thinking of my character Frenchy Tonneau from The Swashbuckler, and how alone and out of it she felt when she paid her first visit to Provincetown. She knew no one, she had to beg rides to the gay beach, her cheap room wasn't up to her fantasy of where she could take some girl she imagined picking up. Frenchy had a bad sunburn, cramps and the gay men she'd traveled up with had priorities that didn't include a lonesome dyke. I'd felt similarly alienated in my twenties, walking up and down the main drag, looking, as Suzanne Westenhoefer joked in her performances that week, at the lesbians looking at me and my partner. I felt most comfortable in the bookstore, but then I felt comfortable in bookstores everywhere.
This trip was very different: decades after my first visit, I actually knew people as I walked along the street. Knew them, stopped and talked with them, and had what Frenchy most wanted, a beautiful and devoted woman I adored on my arm.
There are certain turning points in life which we may not recognize as they happen. This October, during Women's Week in Provincetown, was clearly one of those for me. I was gay and I belonged. The words once had been mutually exclusive; now they could not be separated. I'd grown into the lesbian writer I'd dreamed of being, I'd found the love of my life, I was out to my family and I even had friends in Ptown whose shower we shared when the boiler in the old house where we were staying gave up the ghost. Could life get any better?
Provincetown has not lost its cachet as a gay mecca. The restaurants, stores and streets were stuffed with us: Gabrielle Goldsby, Karin Kallmaker, J.D. Glass, Val McDermid, Marianne Martin, Lynn Ames, Kim Baldwin, Kelly Smith, Austin and Andrews, Jane Fletcher, JLee Meyer, KI Thompson, VK Powell, KG McGregor, SX Meagher, Kate Sweeney, and others - an amazing gathering of talent. Editors, press lawyers, computer support, publishers, bookstore owners, the uber-supportive readers and the friendly headliners like Kate Clinton, Westenhoefer, Tret Fure and Chris Williamson,
Most of all, though, it was fun. There was laughter and entertainment, a bonfire, walks on the beach with my Sweetheart. We celebrated the second anniversary of the marriage of editor Shelley Thrasher and Publicist Connie Ward with ice cream at Spiritus, a perennial town hangout, crowded into a booth with cross dressers in town for their convention.
Maui may be nice; the Castro may be dwindling, but we still have zany Ptown, its streets of dreams, crowded with loners and the celebrated, the seekers, the doers, the revelers, all mingling in the land of the free.
Copyright 2007 Lee Lynch
Lee Lynch has been writing about lesbians since the 1960s when she was a frequent contributor to "The Ladder." Since then she has published thirteen books. The latest is Sweet Creek, from Bold Strokes Books. A 2007 recipient of the Alice B. Reader Award, she was named to the Saints & Sinners Literary Hall of Fame in 2006.