This season in Provincetown has been very striking. It’s nearly a decade since I wrote The End Of Gay Culture for TNR, but only now that the small drip-drip-drip of change seems to have reached a tipping point. The Ptown I came to in the late 1980s is gone forever. Back then, the crowds that thronged here – far larger than today – were dominated by gay men of all ages. On big holiday weekends, there were long lines outside several bars and the entire street was a virtual club. The crowd at Spiritus Pizza at 1 am would stretch for blocks and last for a couple hours.
Cruising was everywhere – on the streets, the beaches and the docks – all amid the somewhat delapidated houses and sea-shacks where groups of gays would crash for night after night. It felt like an alternative reality – an oasis at the end of the world, a place where some of us had come to die but so many more had come to live for the first time.
It’s utterly different today. The gay male crowds are much smaller; the straight influx far larger. Children are everywhere – of gay and straight parents. The super-wealthy have moved in – and real estate prices have all but prevented most regular gays from being able to live or rent here. Instead of legions of young homos working as busboys and waiters – exiled from their homes, or seeking a new life, or just killing time in a beautiful spot – we now have hundreds of young Bulgarian work-study exchange students brought in every summer and housed collectively. And many of the gay men here are like me – older now, and married, and spending more time in the garden than in the bars.
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