Id decided
to write about
gay Cherry
Grove ,evera! month,
before I met Kay in 1986, having become attached to the p/ace-a
resort community on Fire Island about forty-five miles east of New
York City-during the previous summer.
I first visited Cherry Grove in the mid-1960s to check out some
drag performances. I was then trying to understand professional fe-
male impersonators as symbolic leaders of the gay community for my
doctoral dissertation in anthropology at the University of Chicago.
Though charmed by the fine beach and amazed by the all-gay atmo-
sphere, during subsequent years I returned only sporadically on day
trips. Despite a number of women at the bar that weekend in 1966,
the hugely phallic murals on the walls of our host's cottage (he was
an art critic into the gay male "leather," or
scene) and the night-
time prowling of the men on the boardwalks left an impression of a
gay male, not a lesbian space. That gay women like Kay had been
among Cherry Grove's founders never occurred to me.
By the 1980s I was teaching at a college and, like others who have
free time and can more or less afford it, I was dedicated to spending
at least part of my summers out of New York City. In 1984, after my
lover and I were harassed in a rented Catskill cabin by some preteen
boys who spoiled many breakfasts by shouting "Fuckin' lezzies" as
they rode by on bicycles, and who returned to spoil our dinner hours,
too, with cries
of "Suck my dick," we decided to try a summer rental
in a place that would be safe for us. Liking Provincetown but finding
it too far from New York City, we wound up renting in Cherry
For five summers I lived among the 275 cottages jammed together
on wooden boardwalks between the Adantic Ocean and the Great
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