The first time Joe Lima came to Provincetown years ago, he felt as though he’d arrived in another world.
“You don’t even feel like you’re still on the Cape,” he said. “You almost don’t feel like you’re on this planet.”
Now, Lima is president of PFLAG Cape Cod, an organization that supports members of the LGBTQ community and their families. And even though he's been out and proud for decades, escaping to Provincetown still feels important.
“It’s really the only time my husband and I will be openly demonstrative, where we might hold hands and kiss each other in public,” he said.
Pride month for the LBGTQ community came to a close this week at the end of June. In Provincetown, it came and went without any of the usual parties, celebrations, or events that recognize the history and progress made by the LGBTQ community. So what got lost this year? And was anything gained?
Without opportunities to gather in Provincetown, Lima said, some people, particularly the visitors, lost the one space where they can be themselves.
“You know, there are some people who never really are out,” he said. “But for one day of the year, usually it's the Pride festivals or parades, that's when they feel the most comfortable or the most safe to be out in a public setting because they know that everyone attending these events is supportive or a member, themselves, of the LGBTQ community.”
In many ways, the coronavirus pandemic has created a vacuum in Provincetown. And in that space, where there was celebration, there’s been an opportunity to reflect.
“On some level, it's allowed us to maybe slow down a little bit and … kind of shift our attention to other areas that need attention, such as the Black Lives Matter movement or racial injustice and equality,” he said.
In May, more than 100 people in Provincetown took part in a Black Lives Matter protest.
At a vigil on MacMillan Pier, speakers read off the names of Black men and women killed by police officers.
For many it raised questions about how the LGBTQ community can better support its Black and brown members.
“This conversation is coming at such an important and yet challenging time,” said Jha D Williams, executive director of Provincetown’s “Womxn of Color Weekend.” The “x” is used to include those who don't strictly identify as "women."
Between the pandemic and protests, Pride began at a less-than-opportune moment this year.
“Folks are sitting in their houses, isolated, ruminating on all of these various layers of emotions,” she said. “[Then] Pride season starts and we're not able to celebrate. And we're still fighting for the fact that we should just even be able to exist safely in the world as Black and brown people, let alone trying to celebrate our intersectionality.”
But the conversation about intersectionality is shifting in the LGBTQ community and in Provincetown, Williams said. On a recent weekend trip, she noticed how many shops and venues in town had signs in support of Black Lives Matter.
“I have never seen that level of solidarity demonstrated so widespread in P-town in my life. … And so, like the question that I feel like everybody should be asking is how is this sustained?” she said. “How does this level of support or solidarity or demonstration … how does this become ingrained and entrenched? … How does the town become this supportive as opposed to simply displaying this support?”
Williams doesn’t have the answer, but said this is where Provincetown could gain something from the pandemic. Inclusivity starts with a moment of pause, and then comes action.