Wednesday, August 12, 2009

T-Minus Tomorrow to Tea Dance!

Dear Reader,

Tomorrow I embark upon a pilgrimage of sorts. Growing up in Massachusetts my family and I often vacationed in Cape Cod. Once per summer we would rent a house and stay in places like Hyannis or Dennis, basically towns about half way down the cape. We would usually go for a week or so and after a few days of beach hopping, go cart riding and barbequing six kids start to get a bit stir crazy. In the middle of one of our trips when I was ten, someone came up with the idea to go to Provincetown for the day. Right away I knew how taboo this day trip could be . . . and I couldn’t wait to hop in the car and get on our way to the very end of the cape!

Like any region where LGBT people are taunted, (oh, that would be everywhere) P Town as it is famously known was the source of hurtful fodder used against those who seemed ‘not mainstream’ at my school and in my community. It was somewhere out there, not like where we lived in Worcester.

So I had known about P Town growing up, but thought from what I had heard it was so far, far away. Way at the end of Cape Cod was this mysterious place where gay people ran free! They gathered in mass from what I understood and lived a lifestyle full of sex, frivolous laughter, alcohol and miniature poodles. Sign me up! Even then, at ten years old I felt drawn to this place. But with such a strict Christian upbringing I was instilled with feelings of guilt and fear, strong, strong fear about feeling anything but anger and resentment towards such a town. The religious oppression of my youth definitely made me feel confused about my natural feelings of excitement about seeing P Town.

Off we went. All eight of us packed ourselves into the station wagon to begin our journey. I remember my father seeming uncomfortable with the idea of walking into the land where men in cut off acid washed jean shorts hugged and kissed each other in public. He was squirmy when we all sighed with relief that we were going to get out for a bit and he seemed to tighten up even more as we traveled down Highway 6 to our destination.

When we arrived – well, I don’t remember anything! I actually only retain one memory from the actual experience in P Town. I somehow got separated from my family (probably intentionally when I think back on it) and wandered into a bookstore. We must have all walked around for a while before I slipped off. In the bookstore I remember secretly picking up a line art book on same sex sexual positions. I thumbed through the book so fast, absorbing every image knowing I could get caught at any moment.

Then out of nowhere my father walked into the store. I was able to put the book down a millisecond before he spotted me. He said with a stern voice, “C’mon. We’re gettin’ outta heah” (compliments of his central Massachusetts dialect). My heart jumped out of my throat, onto the floor, marched around the block in a pride parade before returning to my chest. Actually, the last part is a fabrication. I was so ashamed. I knew why he was so discomforted. I knew he wanted to leave because of ‘how gay’ it was in this place. Mind you, my father is supportive of me as a gay man now - to a point. I believe seeing me live a normal life has opened his eyes to the real lives of gay people. It’s not all cocktails and puppies for sure.

An aside - My father does not yet understand the importance of LGBT marriage, but with time I believe he will come around. He does not feel the affects of LGBT inequality first hand, so it comes as no surprise that he is not well versed on the issues that matter to me and millions of other Americans. Maybe if I get married some day he will have to face this final frontier head on and reevaluate his position.

Back to the story . . .

So, almost as soon as we breezed into town we were gone. Back to our rented cottage - to the beaches, rides on the go carts and cook outs on the grill.

This weekend I will be going back to P Town for the first time in twenty-two years. And this time, it’s on my terms. I will openly be enjoying all the town has to offer including its quaint shops. And I will keep my eyes open for some fun line art books. Who knows, after P Town I will be meeting up with a special friend in Niagara Falls. If I get my hands on one of these books, he and I may get to try a few new things out.

In closing, I say – yes, many LGBT people are comfortable discussing sex. As for myself, I see nothing wrong with being open with the importance of sexuality to my life. I would also like to share, gay sex, just like straight sex is only a part of what it means to be a gay person. But it is the physical and emotional attraction to a member of the same sex that gives people a clue they are not part of the majority. And places like P Town, Key West, South Beach, West Hollywood, etc., etc. etc. are vibrant communities where people like me feel very free to be all of who we are. Now it’s time to make every community a place where LGBT people can hold hands, kiss, open a bookstore and feel as at home as they do in these very magical pockets of our world.

Thanks for reading.

Alan L. Bounville