I think the whole idea behind Bear Week is that the community is exploring images of maleness. In the past, maleness has had something to do with images of male beauty—think of anything by Michelangelo or Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Cellini—and bears have altered that to something rougher, something less refined, something more mature, bald rather than shaved. Bears and their cubs. It is an interesting, and a sexy, idea.
During Bear Week in Provincetown, bears come from all over the United States, Europe, and Australia and New Zealand to celebrate the look and style. By all accounts, the restaurant staffs find the bears great visitors in Provincetown, friendly, open, easy to wait on, sexy, thoughtful, and generous.
While many of the men present themselves in an exaggerated image of maleness, as hairy bears, there were many other things going on in Provincetown during Bear Week. On Monday night, they hold a contest for the audience’s approval for the best drag act, and all three of the judges were in drag, although not all the contestants. On Tuesday night the show was Peter Pansy, with a guy playing Peter. Every night on Commercial Street, barkers were in such costume that a passerby couldn’t tell what gender they were—what they had started out and what they aimed for now. Courtney and I stayed in a new house in the West End, and we found that men staying in nearby houses called to us when we hung on the railing of our deck. A warm friendly open community.
Walking into the West End on Commercial Street, late one afternoon this week, Courtney and I passed two men with small children. It was such an ordinary sight that it was not until we had gone another hundred yards that I focussed on the fact that the two men were together and the children were theirs. Provincetown spends time and energy exploring questions of gender, and when a person is there, he’s passing among a whole variety of genders without quite realizing it. This is not so much experimenting with gender issues. I think the experimenting is long over in Provincetown. What’s happening is those of us at the end of Cape Cod are employing all the varieties of gender we’ve discovered and are showing them off to each other.
Another important thing happened this week. A panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has lifted the stay of Judge Phillips’ decision declaring DADT unconstitutional and then has apparently stayed the implementation of its own stay. It’s dizzying, I know. A very good commentator on these matters is Ari Ezra Waldman, in Towleroad.
At this moment, the Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Courts are all twisted up over gay matters. They are making fools of themselves. Provincetown led the way years ago and continues to lead the way into the future.