|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."
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 |
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 Street......by 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|
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.|