The End of Gay Culture
The End of Gay Culture
Assimilation and its meaning.
Andrew Sullivan, The New Republic
Published: Monday, October 24, 2005
For the better part of two decades, I have spent much of every summer in the small resort of Provincetown, at the tip of Cape Cod. It has long attracted artists, writers, the offbeat, and the bohemian;and, for many years now, it has been to gay America what Oak Bluffs in Martha's Vineyard is to blackAmerica: a place where a separate identity essentially defines a separate place. No one bats an eye if twomen walk down the street holding hands, or if a lesbian couple pecks each other on the cheek, or if a dragqueen dressed as Cher careens down the main strip on a motor scooter. It's a place, in that respect, thatis sui generis. Except that it isn't anymore. As gay America has changed, so, too, has Provincetown. In amicrocosm of what is happening across this country, its culture is changing.Some of these changes are obvious. A real-estate boom has made Provincetown far more expensive thanit ever was, slowly excluding poorer and younger visitors and residents. Where, once, gayness trumpedclass, now the reverse is true. Beautiful, renovated houses are slowly outnumbering beach shacks, oncecrammed with twenty-something, hand-to-mouth misfits or artists. The role of lesbians in the town's civicand cultural life has grown dramatically, as it has in the broader gay world. The faces of people dyingfrom or struggling with aids have dwindled to an unlucky few. The number of children of gay couples hassoared, and, some weeks, strollers clog the sidewalks. Bar life is not nearly as central to socializing as itonce was. Men and women gather on the beach, drink coffee on the front porch of a store, or meet at theFilm Festival or Spiritus Pizza.And, of course, week after week this summer, couple after couple got married--well over a thousand inthe year and a half since gay marriage has been legal in Massachusetts. Outside my window on a patch of beach that somehow became impromptu hallowed ground, I watched dozens get hitched--under achuppah or with a priest, in formalwear or beach clothes, some with New Age drums and horns, even oneassociated with a full-bore Mass. Two friends lit the town monument in purple to celebrate; a tuxedoedmale couple slipping onto the beach was suddenly greeted with a huge cheer from the crowd; an elderlylesbian couple attached cans to the back of their Volkswagen and honked their horn as they drove up thehigh street. The heterosexuals in the crowd knew exactly what to do. They waved and cheered andsmiled. Then, suddenly, as if learning the habits of a new era, gay bystanders joined in. In an instant, thedifference between gay and straight receded again a little.But here's the strange thing: These changes did not feel like a revolution. They felt merely like small, if critical, steps in an inexorable evolution toward the end of a distinctive gay culture. For what hashappened to Provincetown this past decade, as with gay America as a whole, has been less like a politicalrevolution from above than a social transformation from below. There is no single gay identity anymore,let alone a single look or style or culture. Memorial Day sees the younger generation of lesbians, lookinglike lost members of a boy band, with their baseball caps, preppy shirts, short hair, and earrings.Independence Day brings the partiers: the "circuit boys," with perfect torsos, a thirst for nightlife,designer drugs, and countless bottles of water. For a week in mid-July, the town is dominated by "bears"--chubby, hairy, unkempt men with an affinity for beer and pizza. Family Week heralds an influx of childrenand harried gay parents. Film Festival Week brings in the artsy crowd. Women's Week brings the morefamiliar images of older lesbians: a landlocked flotilla of windbreakers and sensible shoes. East Villagebohemians drift in throughout the summer; quiet male couples spend more time browsing gourmetgroceries and realtors than cruising nightspots; the predictable population of artists and writers--Michael
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