Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Puritans Must Be Rolling Over In Their Graves

John Winthrop, first governor of Massachusetts Bay colony

I woke up this morning feeling great!  So this is what freedom feels like?  I love it!

The last time I felt this free and equal was back in 1974 on an early July summer evening as my friend Bob Mc. and I rolled down Commercial Street in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  This was the first time we had ever been in Massachusetts and also the first time we were in a gay resort.  

Ariel view Provincetown, Mass 1974

What struck us first was how crowded the town was.  Solid masses of people on the sidewalks and in the road. At first we were mildly irritated that people were walking in the road and not jumping aside to make way for our vehicle.  Then we noticed something we had never in our lives seen before, same sex couples walking down the street (and in the road) together, many holding hands, some kissing and just being together.  What really astounded us was that the straight people seemed to take no notice.  There were no faces twisted in disgust at the sight of two men or two women walking together, CLOSELY.  

Commercial Street, Provincetown, Mass - 1974

Bob and I were thrown off balance by this new dynamic.  Prior to this steamy, July evening in 1974, in our previous life we were conditioned to expect different responses from straight folks when they say gay folks expressing fondness and closeness  in public.  Then we both had this very strange feeling.  We couldn't quite identify it because we had never felt it before.  Well, actually I did feel something like it before and that was the time I went into my first gay bar in Clairton, PA and saw men dancing with men.  But this was different.  This was in public and there were straight people around. 

Me in Provincetown (working on my skin cancer) - 1976

We quickly adjusted our attitude towards the crowds overflowing in the street thus slowing us down to our destination which was a gay bed and breakfast called "The Ranch" further on down Commercial Street.  Funny thing, we thought we were going to a dude ranch and we were dressed accordingly.  HA!  We found out differently when we arrived at "The Ranch."  
But that is another whole story which deserves its own blog post.  Back to the program in progress.

When we got to "The Ranch" we discussed this new "feeling" that we both experienced.  It wasn't too long until we both came to the realization that this "feeling" was freedom.  Yes folks, FREEDOM! God was that ever a great feeling.   

Outdoor cafe dining in Provincetown - 1976

For the next week we were in Provincetown we bathed and indulged ourselves in this new "thing" called freedom.  

"Tea Dance" at the Boat Slip in Provincetown, Mass (oh I spent many an afternoon here getting sloshed dancing)

Then it came time to leave and return to home which for me was center city Philadelphia.  It wasn't too long before I had to make an attitude readjustment.  Sure, I lived in center city Philadelphia which housed a large gay population. That was one reason I moved to center city Philly. But I quickly realized that even though there were many gay men and women in center city, that feeling of "Freedom" was gone.  Oh sure, a same sex couple could try walking down Spruce Street holding hands.  At best such a public display of affection would guarantee many disapproving looks from the straight people passing you on the street.  At the worst you would have a homophobic slur thrown at you like "Look at the fags!" Or you could even have what I had happen to me once, chased down the street to a friend's apartment to escape a gang of baseball bat wielding South Philly toughs who periodically on Saturday nights would drink enough beer to get the courage to go to "Philly and bash some fags."  Yes, I was chased simply because I was walking down Spruce myself.  Yes folks, even though I had fooled myself by thinking I was living The Life in center city Philly I didn't know what real freedom was like until that 1974 summer evening in Provincetown, Mass.

Jay (guy who reads my blog and sent me some of his Provincetown pictures)  feeling no pain at the Tea Dance

Yesterday I had that feeling again.  I was sitting at my computer, banging out my latest blog titled "Same Sex Ruling Due Today."  To be honest with you I didn't expect anything positive, especially because of the Supreme Court's ruling the previous day which put a dagger in the heart of the 1964 Voting Rights Bill.  Oh no, I was expecting the worse.  Then while I was typing with my TV on in the background I heard THE NEWS!  The Supreme Court declared DOMA, the "Defense of Marriage Ace" unconstitutional!  Unbelievable!  I could not believe it.  DOMA, the only time in our nation's history that Congress passed and the president signed a bill legalizing discrimination against a class of its citizens.  DOMA was no longer valid.  This meant that anyone married in those state that have legal same sex marriages would be entitled to the dignity and respect now routinely accorded to straight couples, including all the Federal protections and tax benefits.  Then that feeling swept over me like Niagara Falls.

Me at Niagara Falls 1967 - back in the bad old closeted days
 Oh my.  I had forgotten what it felt like.  Folks, it feels good!

Which brings to my mind, I wonder if John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Puritan would feel about yesterday's Supreme Court ruling knocking down DOMA.  You all know John Winthrop don't you?  He left England with his little band of religious zealots called "The Puritans" to find....get ready for it......religious freedom.  Of course his brand of religious freedom was you either practiced his religion or you were ostracized and punished.  Sound familiar?  Ostracized and punished.  Hmmmm.  Yes folks, the irony is that one of the first leaders to come to this country for freedom probably would not approve of yesterday's Supreme Court ruling.  Winthrop and his fellow Puritans must be rolling (twirling is probably more accurate) over in their graves today.  

Winthrop and his fellow intolerant Puritans (nice drag).  Justice Scalia would feel right at home.


Jon said...

Strangely enough, I had never really thought much about the entire "gay liberation" movement until I left California. Gays had always been accepted in L.A. and, at the very least, were tolerated in other parts of Southern Cal. In Hollywood it was normal to see guys walking down the street holding hands and kissing.
Orange County was the most conservative place, but it contained plenty of gay bars if you searched hard enough.

When I moved to the Missouri Ozarks it was like going back 200 years in time. My gay friends were frequently harrassed and very often hunted down and beaten up. There were actually good ol' boy lynch mobs that loved going out after dark in search of "fags" (most of those good ol' boys probably had latent homosexual tendencies themselves.....)

I had never realized how much anti-gay hate existed in other parts of the country.

WARPed said...

Hi Ron,

First-time commentor here (though I've lurked for a while...great blog, btw.)

Wow, "Tea Dance."

I've never seen so many bald guys with beards before in one!



Ron said...


Welcome! Thank you for your generous compliment. Remember the "Tea Dances"? I miss them. Such great fun and a perfect way to end the day after laying on the beach at Herring Cove. Tea Dance, hookup, then go to dinner. La dolce a vita.

Hey, there's a lot of bald gay guys down here (Rehoboth Beach) too. Don't include me though, I still have hair, just less of it.

Have a great day!


Randy in Neb said...

Ron, First off was wondering if you know who the hottie is coming up the steps on the left of the 6th pic, outdoor resturant P'town 1976? Also the reaction to the Scotus ruling to DOMA and Prop 8, by my state leaders(cretins)was predictable. The politicians and and so called chuch leaders said this ruling changes nothing here. And they're right, a lot of people in fly-over country are still living in the 1950's I've not had many problems with homophobes, in places like Nebraska one learns to keep a low profile and blend in. Makes it hard(haha I said hard -_0) to find a boyfriend. But I've gotten the straight guy stare and the always enjoyable "what you doing here homo"?!! When out for a walk smiling,nodding,and saying hi at someone means I would like to preform oral sex on you apparenty. Hope to here soon about your wedding. Randy

Ron said...

Hey Randy,

Sorry, I don't know who that hottie is coming up the steps. That is a picture I took too. I used to vacation several times a summer at P-town. One week I made it my mission to take a lot of photos. That photo was form that week. I usually don't notice someone looking right at the camera until I go the photos developed. Same thing happens today. When I transfer my digital photos I see someone starring right at me that I didn't know was looking when I took the photo.

I "feel" for you guys to live in Flyover Country. I would move out fast myself. Pennsylvania didn't used to be bad but it is now that the Republicans control the governorship and both houses. I am so glad I live in an enlighted state although we have our fair share of ignorant, hateful, homophobes down here in this little state too.

Bill still hasn't come out of his bedroom. He's not speaking to me right now so our wedding is on hold. Nothing to worry about though, he'll come out of this funk he's in. He always has before. Then we'll get married and live happily ever after.

Always good to hear from you Randy.

Your friend,


Anonymous said...

Hey, Andy! Good to see you here! HAHAHAHA

Peace <3

Ur-spo said...

I am direct decendent of the puritans; and my mother's side came over in 1620 with the first stop at Provincetown. There is a plaque there with the original folks. My brothers and wives/girlfriends and I went to P-town to see it. So, my one trip to P-town was with six straight people. Brother #4 kept saying "wow! look at all the gay people!" (ever the tactful one).
Truth be told, they were 'rolling in their graves' within one generation there, as it just wasn't the New Jeruselum they hoped to make, what with all the riff raff coming in with such godless practices such as celebrating Christmas.

Ron said...

Dr. Spo,

Among the many other things that I find impressive about you is that you are a direct descendent of the Puritans. I just think that is cool as can be. And yes, "wow! look at all the gay people" was my first impression of P-town. It was a very positive impression and the first time I felt truly free and "normal" in my lifetime.

I can so see you in Puritan drag.


Ur-spo said...

There is far too much "Puritan" in my genetics and muscle memory as it is. Donning duds would only make it worse or dare say invite diabolical possession. No thank you very much !

Ron said...

Dr. Spo,

Now I have that image in my mind of you in your Puritan "duds" and the scandalous acts I would perform on you. Makes me smile.