“IN 1620 Provincetown was a barren strip of land. What would a group of wayfarers, seasick and starving after a two month voyage to escape from what they considered to be a perverse England, have thought if they had known that the sandy cove they were setting foot on would someday feature drag bingo? … What would have happened if they had foreseen that their religious commune, known for its draconian anti-sodomy laws, would become part of a state (Massachusetts) that would be the first to legalize same-sex marriage? … Could these settlers have dreamed that the Charles Street Meeting House … would house the first national lgbtq newspaper?”
So begins The Hub of the Gay Universe: An LGBTQ History of Boston, Provincetown, and Beyond, by Russ Lopez, due out from Shawmut Peninsula Press in May 2019. From the Maypole of Merrymount in 1627 to the defeat of an anti-trans rights ballot question in 2018, the history, in Lopez’ words, “includes lavish nightlife and nightmare repression.” It has biographies of leading LGBT figures such as Ned Warren, who contributed his antique gay artifacts to the Museum of Fine Arts, and Blanche Lazzell and the other gays and lesbians who supported the Provincetown Theatre. It chronicles events like the secret Harvard tribunals of 1920 and the push for the anti-discrimination law that passed in 1989.
Lopez has studied, taught, and written about the urban environment, and has two previous books specifically about Boston, including Boston’s South End: The Clash of Ideas in a Historic Neighborhood. He has worked in Boston City Hall and the Massachusetts State House and has been active in politics and in LGBT issues. He is obviously the right person to have undertaken this history.
I conducted the interview with Russ, who is a friend, by e-mail.