Shoe is on the other foot in gay resort town - Heterosexuals see an anti-straight bias
By Ling Liu
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune
Published July 27, 2006
PROVINCETOWN, Mass. -- Heterosexuals in this overwhelmingly gay resort town on the tip of Cape Cod are complaining that the oppressed have become the oppressors.
Some straight people say they have been taunted as "breeders." One woman who signed a petition against same-sex marriage says she was berated as a bigot by a gay man, and another complained that dog feces were left next to her car.
"The gay community is not immune to having potential prejudices. We're all human, including gay people," said Tom Lang, director of KnowThyNeighbor.org, a non-profit group that supports same-sex marriage.
Provincetown has long attracted writers, artists, and gays and lesbians, and it is known as a place where people can feel free to be themselves. New England's unofficial gay capital has 3,400 year-round residents; summer tourism brings nearly 10 times as many people.
Locals say the intolerance from those who have long pleaded for tolerance has been stirred, in part, by the dispute over Massachusetts' becoming the first and only state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Tensions boiled over this year after the names and addresses of nearly 5,000 Massachusetts residents--43 of them from Provincetown--who signed a petition seeking a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage were published on the KnowThyNeighbor Web site.
This month, a gay man got into a shouting match at a grocery store with a straight woman, calling her a bigot for signing the petition.
A week afterward, Police Chief Ted Meyer held a town meeting that drew about 50 people to discuss that argument and wider issues of civility.
Meyer said two others who signed the petition felt targeted after the Web site published their names. One woman charged that same-sex marriage supporters put dog feces next to her car, an accusation Meyer said would be impossible to prove. Another woman found a copy of the KnowThyNeighbor list on her windshield.
Some straight tourists also have complained of being called "breeders," a joking or derogatory slur used by homosexuals to describe heterosexuals.
"It's a term of divisiveness," said Town Manager Keith Bergman.
Most of the Provincetown residents who signed the petition are members of St. Peter the Apostle Roman Catholic Church, according to its pastor, Rev. Henry Dahl. The majority of the church's 750 parishioners are Portuguese families who are not gay, though St. Peter's is listed as a "gay-friendly" church by various gay Web sites.
Dahl said he is offended that some proponents of same-sex marriage have equated the opposing view with bigotry. "I'll take ownership of being a Catholic and being a signer of the petition, but I won't take ownership of being a bigot," he said.
He said he believes the list was publicized to intimidate opponents of same-sex marriage.
But Lang said the list was published to encourage discussion of the gay marriage issue. And he condemned disrespectful behavior on the part of gays toward straight people.
"Despite all that's been thrown at the gay community, it's no excuse for being rude or using derogatory terms to anyone," he said.