My partner Mark and I have been lucky enough to travel to the States a number of times and visit the beautiful Cape Cod resort of Provincetown.
Provincetown has always held a special place in our hearts. It’s not only the quaint clapper- board fishermen’s cottages and pretty and colourful gardens that appeal to us; or the so-called ‘special’ light, the clarity of which has attracted artists for over a century; or even the sandy beaches and beautiful blue seas with iconic lighthouses as depicted by Hopper in many of his paintings. The town is also special to us because we feel at home to be who we are. In a town in which the LGBT communities outnumber the heterosexual communities it is intensely liberating to be who we truly are; without having to look over our shoulders to see if someone will be offended if we walk down the street holding hands or even share a brief kiss. Mark always says we have “stopped editing ourselves” – we are the unexpurgated, uncensored, unedited, authentic versions of ourselves. And when we dance together with our LGBT brothers and sisters in the open air at the daily tea Dance on The Boatslip I think of those who have gone before us – including those we have lost to the HIV and AIDS epidemic and I am always reminded of the words of the writer and gay activist Paul Monette who himself died of AIDS:
“I still shiver with a kind of astonished delight when a gay brother or sister tells of that narrow escape from the coffin world of the closet. Yes yes yes, goes a voice in my head, it was just like that for me. When we laugh together and dance in the giddy circle of freedom, we are children for real, at last, because we have finally grown up. And every time we dance, our enemies writhe like the Witch in Oz, melting, melting – the Nazi Popes and all their brocaded minions, the rat-brain politicians, the wacko fundamentalists and their Book of Lies”.
Whenever, we return home from Provincetown and back to harsh reality (for two weeks holiday in Provincetown is a dream and phantasy of how things could be) we both undergo an unsettling period of adjustment and acclimatisation. On the occasions we walk to work together we get to that awkward moment when we say good bye. We invariably move towards a hesitant hug and a kiss but something within us stops us from such open displays of affection. Instead we smile knowingly, maybe an occasional surreptitious squeeze of the arm, and go our separate ways. Two confident, (and some might say privileged) white men yet we still go through this hesitant ritual of parting – cognisant still of growing up in a world where displays of affection between two men were frowned upon and now it seems still frowned upon.
When we awake to the news on Sunday morning of the cold bloodied murder of fifty people in a gay night club in Orlando we are again reminded of the real world; reminded that our very existence is abhorrent to some people. And when we hear the father of the gunman say his son was angered by the sight of two gay men kissing and that it is for God to punish homosexuals not human beings – we are reminded of the real world. When we read on Twitter feeds that Gay people are perverts and deserve to be shot or that the world is a better place with a few less gays in it – we are again reminded of the real world. And we remind ourselves of why we are reluctant to show displays of affection in public; we remind ourselves of why LGBT venues and spaces are still important. And when the right wing politicians, the racists and the bigots try to blame Islam and unrestrained immigration – we remind ourselves that these bigots are the same bigots who would deny us equal rights, our rights to services, the rights of marriage, the rights to live in peace. These bigots are the same ones who would deny trans people the right to use the toilets of their choice…the same ones who would find our public displays of affection abhorrent.