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Researchers warn bachelorette parties in Provincetown are destroying LGBTQ+ safe spaces

"We know the end of this story because we know how gentrification works."

John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe, File

Two researchers are sounding the alarm over the damage caused by bachelorette parties taking over safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people, warning that the presence of the bridal celebrations often destroys the locations for the individuals who created them in the first place.

Vincent Jones II, an assistant professor of community health and director of the Health Promotion Center at York College, and Laurie Essig, a professor and director of Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies at Middlebury College and author of  “Love, Inc.: Dating Apps, Big White Weddings, and Chasing the Happily Neverafter,” wrote in The Boston Globe that the process of taking over LGBTQ+ spaces is called “hetrification.” The researchers said that like gentrification, hetrification occurs when people feel “privileged to take over spaces of others” and is fundamentally about money.

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Jones and Essig pointed to their research in Provincetown to illustrate how bachelorette parties, made up mostly by white women “trying to escape their straight world” and avoid male harassment during their celebrations, are often drawn to queer spaces, such as gay bars and drag shows. Drag queens told the researchers that bachelorette parties are their main source of income, with fewer members of the LGBTQ+ community attending the shows.

“Just as a gentrifier is able to exercise their financial prowess to seduce a seller, a hetrifier is likewise able to buy space in a queer venue,” the researchers said. “Many gay and lesbian spaces were the result of white gentrification of neighborhoods that were primarily Black and Latinx. But hetrificaiton, unlike gentrification, is an appropriation not just of space, but of culture. According to our LGBTQ+ interviewees, the women suffer from a ‘Will and Grace’ complex. They think they can shout Cher lyrics and yell ‘Yaaaasssss, Queen!’ because they are welcomed into gay culture. Our research shows otherwise.”

Even though the bachelorette party-goers only temporarily “invade” the spaces that were not created for them, the researchers said through the “incessant” visits, “hetrification weaponizes heteronormativity and breaks down queer spaces.”

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The researchers said none of the bridal parties interviewed in P-town knew they were “hetrifiers.”

“The bachelorettes — all college-educated, well-off, and almost exclusively white — understood how hard the fight for gay rights is, and wanted to be respectful,” the researchers said. “It’s just after several drinks, many may grab the butt of a cute gay man or take selfies in front of the leather daddies as if they were exhibits in some queer zoo. Many of the bridal party participants believed that homophobia (they never discussed transphobia) was a thing of the past, something older generations had to deal with, but now that there was gay marriage, it just wasn’t a problem.”

The lack of awareness and ignorance espoused by the bachelorette attendees about the realities for LGBTQ+ people was “reminiscent of white Americans insisting racism was over once we had elected a Black man as president,” the researchers said.

The academics likened going into the queer spaces believing in a “post-homophobic world” as a kind of “hostile occupation.”

“Worse than their post-homophobic homophobia, when we asked the bridal parties if anyone in their group was lesbian, bisexual, or trans, they answered with a rather stunned ‘I have no idea’ as if women’s queerness was a topic best not broached,” the professors wrote. “One bisexual woman in Provincetown said that she was often treated with revulsion by these women, taking her back to her high school days. ‘These were the same people who would have bullied me in high school. Now they want to come to our party?’”

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The researchers said asking the bachelorette parties to not take up so much space would only be a Band-Aid for the toxic masculinity that is pushing them away from celebrating in straight party venues.

“The women are displaced by rape culture and seek refuge in queer spaces, but the queers are faced with tolerating the heterosexual gaze or not showing up at all,” the professors wrote. “We know the end of this story because we know how gentrification works. Follow the money.”

Read the full op-ed in the Globe.

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