Provincetown History

Provincetown was established in 1620 by the colonizers on the Mayflower. After the American Revolution, Portuguese immigrants began to settle in the town. Around the turn of the twentieth century, Portuguese residents of Provincetown startedto take in LGBTQ boarders, and the town soon became a safe haven for queer individuals. Provincetown became a hub for theater after the Provincetown Players staged their first shows in 1915 and 1916. In 1963, the Provincetown Theater Company formed. 

During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, when David Matias moved there, the city experienced a boom in its queer population. At the time, Provincetown was one of the fewplaces in the United States where queer people felt safe in the face of prejudice and death during the epidemic. Today, Provincetown still has a large LGBTQ population, although the city is becoming increasingly gentrified; and wealthy white gay men have overtaken the population of working class LGBTQ people of color.

"It’s about freedom and freedom from fear. I can walk down the streets in summer, the packed streets and kiss a man on the lips and no one’s going to care. That’s unusual in America—anywhere. I think gay people are used to looking over our shoulder. There’s always danger around, sometimes subtle.... It’s all about living your life without fear of being persecuted...about being gay without fear."

-John, current gay resident of Provincetown, quoted in William Berry and Michele Wolfson's article in the Journal of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research, “Provincetown: An Experience of Place and Identity for Gay Men.”