The Gayest Places I’ve Ever Been To

1. Provincetown, Massachusetts

Being gay in Provincetown

Provincetown is my gay utopia. A little beach town nestled on the Cape, it’s a place that comes alive during the summer and shuts down completely in the off season. Restaurants close, art galleries become abandoned and the only people left are the locals who are probably relieved to rid their town of the tourists. A cab driver told me what life was like during these solitary months: “You really get to know yourself in the winter. There’s no hiding. You really have to like who you are to survive because it’s just so quiet and lonely.” During the sweltering summer season, the main road becomes inundated with bodies, sometimes making it difficult just to get from point gay to point gayer. Bikers, joggers, and cars share one narrow space, often running into each other and creating a cluster of tan, muscled bodies and drag queens.

Many gay destinations have an explicit sexual vibe to them. The main strip is often littered with sex shops and scantily clad men who are selling seediness to tourists. It’s as if they’re saying, “This is what gay culture is about. There must always be a layer of sex that’s thrust in people’s faces. I’m here, I’m queer, now suck on it.” Provincetown is sexual too—I saw a naked guy walking around in nothing but a thong at three o’clock in the afternoon—but there’s an element of playfulness and charm to it. Gay sexuality is not coated in this darkness, but rather it’s given a tongue-in-cheek makeover. This is what draws me to Provincetown. It represents homosexuality at its most kooky and irreverent. You see a gaggle of old gay men in a restaurant at happy hour who look like they’ve been friends for decades and it fills you with a sense of pride and belonging. It’s a stunning few miles of gay life on display and I suspect I’ll be returning every summer for the rest of my life.

2. West Hollywood, California

I lived in BoysTown (the super gay part of WeHo as opposed to the medium gay part) for two months in the summer of 2008. I’ve since lived in other parts of West Hollywood—the area between Fairfax and La Brea mostly—but I have vowed to never return to that area of WeHo again. It’s the darkest of the #dark over there. To be fair, Los Angeles is an inherently dark city. The ungodly amount of sunshine deceives you into thinking otherwise but trust me when I tell you that people aren’t living right. I moved into a place on La Jolla and Santa Monica Boulevard on a tree-lined street that was adorned with Spanish style homes and manicured gardens. I was removed from the bougie side though, living on the upper level of a small apartment building that had a view of a trashy gay bar. My neighbor was a sad 75-year-old gay man named Gordon who always tried to get me to drink martinis with him. One time I actually did, only to find myself trapped in aimless drunk conversation with him for three hours. He eventually passed out drunk on the couch and I tiptoed my way out.

I don’t drive so I relied on the convenience of Santa Monica Boulevard to take me to most places. On my walk to the grocery store or a restaurant, I would often see the same 50-year-old muscle queens over and over. Some would walk up and down Santa Monica Boulevard all day long shirtless and in tiny running shorts with no destination in sight. There was a uniformness to Boystown that could only be described as older gym bunny/twentysomething in True Religions and entertainment streaks. Gay men would often take up shop in the Starbucks and Coffee Bean with their dog and just sit there for hours, looking at the young boys who walked past them. There was no community, only smatterings of friends. In fact, it felt extremely isolated and creepy—a veritable gay ghost town. Living there without transportation and feeling trapped in my own neighborhood allowed to me see every facet of the neighborhood, every awful thing that lurked underneath the bedazzled surface. I left that apartment feeling somehow objectified and undesirable at the same time. I was held under their male gaze but I also didn’t fit the WeHo ideal. The times I’ve returned to the neighborhood, I often think of it as some warped gay Disneyland. I don’t regard it as the happiest place on Earth, although I’m sure many WeHo gays would disagree with me.

3. Palm Springs, California

Being gay in Palm Spring

Palm Springs is the most homophobic gay destination in my mind because it’s a city that’s populated by rich elderly Republicans and gay men. Like Provincetown, it’s a gay destination that’s typically seasonal, which means that it houses some kooky locals. My gay uncle is one of them, in fact. He moved to the desert years ago with his husband to escape the Valley and is quick to concede that it’s a strange place. Everything is oversized and Americana. In many ways, its like Las Vegas but richer, gayer, and not as disgusting. You can stay here for weeks and be content in your fantasy world. The gays seem to be mostly of the fortysomething bear variety but The Ace Hotel has helped bring in some fresh meat.  Meanwhile, the gay bars are amazing and lack any pretension. If I felt like I was anyone’s type in Palm Springs, I would be in homosexual heaven.

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.

Trace the scars life has left you. It will remind you that at one point, you fought for something. You believed.

“You are the only person who gets to decide if you are happy or not—do not put your happiness into the hands of other people. Do not make it contingent on their acceptance of you or their feelings for you. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if someone dislikes you or if someone doesn’t want to be with you. All that matters is that you are happy with the person you are becoming. All that matters is that you like yourself, that you are proud of what you are putting out into the world. You are in charge of your joy, of your worth. You get to be your own validation. Please don’t ever forget that.” — Bianca Sparacino

Excerpted from The Strength In Our Scars by Bianca Sparacino.

Read Here

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  • thepanderson

    As a WeHo resident, I loved your description. It pretty much describes why I’m leaving to Boystown in Chicago (among other reasons). LA in general is just way too spread out to have reliable clusters of friends. Palm Springs is weird too.

  • http://twitter.com/jkymarsh J. Ky Marsh

    Things I would love to read: an article by Ryan O’Connell that has little or nothing to do with being gay, gay people, gay places, or gay things.

    Otherwise, I’m pretty done with your articles.

    • klaus

      cum on! stop being so hard on him.

    • Troublelady

      No one is forcing you to read them…

      Methinks thou dost protest too much.

  • http://twitter.com/jkymarsh J. Ky Marsh

    Things I would love to read: an article by Ryan O’Connell that has little or nothing to do with being gay, gay people, gay places, or gay things.

    Otherwise, I’m pretty done with your articles.

  • klaus

    My BEDROOM is the gayest place I’ve ever been to.

  • http://twitter.com/gayworldproblem Gay World Problems

    That SoHo hot mess of a best girlfriend was cock blocking you Ryan! Down with cock blockers! Although I have done it before to other guys, woops.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_EUL6B7WZUNAHGMO5KRCKZTGP54 Damen Handle

    There’s a Boystown in LA? I’ve only known of the one in Chicago.

  • http://twitter.com/mung_beans 371747

    sounds pretty gay, but I’d REALLY like to know where the gayest place in Iowa is

  • http://twitter.com/freckleballek Matthew Ballek

    Come here and have a gay adventure to MONTREAL. yummmay quebecois. 

  • http://summerslowrunner.wordpress.com/ Summer

    How is it possible that Key West, FL is not on this list?

  • http://rayguntest.tumblr.com Raegan

    The Phone booth is a gay bar? News to me.

  • Taylor

    You forgot Smith College. Oops.

  • https://thoughtcatalog.com/2012/discussion-wheres-the-best-place-to-go-on-vacation/ Discussion: Where’s The Best Place To Go On Vacation? | Thought Catalog

    […] Summer is over. School is back in session, the leaves are beginning to change, everyone’s sick of the heat. Most people are back from vacation, but ours just started. No, literally — TC is vacationing right now in Provincetown. […]

  • http://www.itmakesmestronger.com/2012/09/discussion-where%e2%80%99s-the-best-place-to-go-on-vacation/ Only L<3Ve @ ItMakesMeStronger.com

    […] Summer is over. School is back in session, the leaves are beginning to change, everyone’s sick of the heat. Most people are back from vacation, but ours just started. No, literally — TC is vacationing right now in Provincetown. […]

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