The dream of utopia—of a life lived in a happy, slow-paced, sustainable, self-contained community of beautiful dreamers seeking refuge from the crass, materialistic, cruel world—is part of Provincetown’s allure. Located at the tip of a peninsula in the magical beauty of the outer Cape, surrounded by dunes and far from prying eyes, it has long been a haven for artists and writers. It is here, in a barn atop a sandy bluff, that Charles Webster Hawthorne started the Cape Cod School of Art in 1898. Norman Rockwell studied here. Norman Mailer, renting a house next door, attended parties in the space. Tennessee Williams danced and Jackson Pollock got drunk in the barn.
But it’s not just America’s oldest continuous art colony. “P-town”, as it’s affectionately known, has long been a queer enclave where an otherwise ironclad rule of life gets flipped to glorious effect. Instead of figuring that everyone is straight, you can figure that everyone isn’t. Fifty years after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn catalyzed the mainstream LGBTQ movement, gay people still maintain spheres of separation from the wider world: nightclubs, vacation spots, and dating apps where like can meet like. In Provincetown, folks who otherwise might edit themselves for the straight world find the miraculous-seeming freedom to directly pursue their desires. This pursuit can take forms as mild as dinner and a movie or walking down the street hand in hand with your new friend.
Provincetown is as much a refuge today as it was in 1620, when the pilgrims, fleeing religious persecution in Holland, landed first in Provincetown where they signed the 'Mayflower Compact' in Provincetown harbor, before fleeing the sandy, hostile environment for the more fertile environs across the bay in Plymouth. Yup, that’s right. The gayest place in America is in fact the birthplace of the nation. You don’t get greater than that.