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REVIEW: The Hub of the Gay Universe: An LGBTQ History of Boston, Provincetown, and Beyond by Russ Lopez

by Steve Desroches

In this LGBT Pride Month and with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the remarkable progress made toward equality and also on the work still left to do. In order to know where we’re going we have to know where we’ve been. History is all about the future. One of the most vicious tools of oppression is denying a people the knowledge and the truth about their own history via censorship, lack of inclusion, and academic denial. Many complain that the culture at large is ignorant of LGBT history, and at times that lack of information is present within said community. But where are people to go to learn about LGBT history?

While not new, the area of scholarship around LGBT history has been small and often relegated to elective status. But at the moment, the study and documentation of LGBT history is expanding at an unprecedented rate. Museums, archives, and libraries of all kinds across the country (indeed the world) are racing to bring their collections up to date after ignoring the LGBT experience for decades. This new energy, attention, and focus has produced new works bringing histories of LGBT people to light, including exploring activism and events before Stonewall. The Hub of the Gay Universe: An LGBTQ History of Boston, Provincetown, and Beyond by Russ Lopez is an example of the new resources available to those curious about the queer history of this region.

Lopez’s book is a thoughtful and well-researched addition to the scholarship regarding Massachusetts’ major role in LGBT rights and history. Far too often the focus on LGBT history has primarily been on New York or California, which is understandable considering the events that took place in each state. But often times it’s a demographics game, as each of those states has large populations and are also media hubs, which can distort things by ignoring the equally, and in some cases more significant, contributions made by smaller states and locales.

The Hub of the Gay Universe primarily focuses on Boston and its fascinating LGBT history. And certainly, by nature of being in the Commonwealth, Boston and Provincetown do have parallels. Undoubtedly, Provincetown and its culture and history are heavily influenced by New York (some would even argue more so than Boston). Regardless of which city has had a larger impact on Provincetown’s LGBT history, one thing is clear: early on the town’s history began to standalone. In his exploration of Provincetown’s LGBT history Lopez hits upon important stories and figures many devotees of Ptown might not be familiar with like early gay rights pioneer Prescott Townsend, the importance of Spiritus Pizza to the gay culture of the town, and the spasm of conservatism in the 1950s that sought to rid the town of gay men. For those yearning to learn more about LGBT history in general, as well as in Boston and beyond, The Hub of the Gay Universe is a nice addition to the growing canon of this long ignored field of study.

The Hub of the Gay Universe by Russ Lopez (2019, Shawmut Peninsula Press) is available wherever books are sold. Be sure to support your local independent booksellers.

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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