From its inception in 1975, Fantasia Fair has been featured in magazines, newsletters and newspapers, and on video. Here are a few of many pieces published. Some pieces in the popular press, you will notice, objectify us, and descriptive terminology is dated in early articles from within the trans community.
We’re sure we’re missing many articles about the Fair, so if you have one or know of one that isn’t featured here, please let us know!
Fantasia Fair Wikipedia Page
Hey, don’t take our word for it! Here’s the Fair’s Wikipedia page.
Provincetown Magazine (2003)
Thomas, Brenner.2003, October 23-November. In the spotlight: Dallas Denny. Transformations: An interview with one of the transgender community’s most outspoken members. Provincetown Magazine, 26(27), cover, pp. 55-59.
“One of the things that became manifest in the 90’s was that transgender people realized they didn’t have to ‘change sex,’ they didn’t have to have surgery, what whatever was their best fit was okay. There were people who felt you weren’t a proper transsexual unless you had genital surgery. And there are transsexuals who absolutely need that to feel whole or at one with their bodies, including me.”
“I would point out that being gay or lesbian is violating gender norms, just as is cross-dressing. There’s an expectation of your gendered behavior, and if you’re with someone of the same sex, you’re violating a gender norm. That’s what makes people upset. When many gay and lesbian people get bashed, it’s not because of their sexual orientation, but because their gendered presentations somehow sets off their attackers.”
Provincetown Banner (2017)
Wood, Anne. (2017, October 26). Fantasia Fair isn’t just for cross-dressers anymore. Provincetown Banner, pp. A1, A21
“Some of the people are indeed beginning their exploration,’ Denny says. ‘Sometimes this is the first place they’ve come out the door [dressed as women, and they are] scared to death.’
“Indeed, the Fantasia Fair participants’ guide includes a video and photo policy, which tells attendees that they can get No Photo buttons from the Fair office if they don’t want to have their images captured. ‘Media representatives must obtain written releases from any participant photographed or interviewed,’ the booklet reads.
“It makes sense: people come from all over the country to attend the event, and many fear losing their jobs, their families — their entire lives — if their desire to dress like women is made public.”
“The programming is extensive and its expert speakers, of which Denny is one, are top-notch. It’s among the best of any group that comes to Provincetown. Workshops that were offered included: “Coming Out … The Good, The Bad and the Indifferent,” with psychologist Gennifer Herley; “How to Cope with the Fear of Abandonment,” with Mónica Pérèz, who also runs “Parenting the Transgender Child”; and “It Ain’t Me Babe — or Maybe It Is,” a workshop for the non-transgender member of the relationship, with Carole MacKenzie. There are also fun events such as a talent show, follies and more.
“’Everyone gets to have their princess moment, whether they’re male to female or female to male,’ Denny says.”
Provincetown Independent (2019)
Karren, Howard (2019, October 17). At 45, Provincetown’s Fantasia Fair Is as Vital as Ever Provincetown Independent,
“Fantasia Fair, which unfolds from Sunday, Oct. 20, to Sunday, Oct. 27, represents the best of Provincetown. This isolated village at the end of Cape Cod is a haven for the transgender community — it’s friendly, it’s tolerant, it’s uninhibited, it’s experimental.”
“By 1975, the year of the first Fantasia Fair — before Women’s Week, Family Week, and Bear Week were even germs of ideas — Provincetown was becoming well known as a destination for gay men and lesbians. Fantasia Fair was created and frequented largely by men who were not gay but were known as cross-dressers: in their everyday lives, they presented as men, but at some point, they felt compelled to dress as women.”
“Recall the scene in ‘Ed Wood’ (1994) when Wood, played by Johnny Depp, tries to explain himself to low-budget film producer Georgie Weiss (Mike Starr):
Wood: “I like to dress in women’s clothing.”
Weiss: “You’re a fruit?”
Wood: “No, not at all. I love women. Wearing their clothes makes me feel closer to them.”
Weiss: “You’re not a fruit?”
Wood: “No, I’m all man. I even fought in W.W. II. Of course, I was wearing women’s undergarments under my uniform.””
“Just like the gay rights movement, which is now LGBT and proudly, broadly queer, Fantasia Fair has come a long way since 1975. Likewise, public understanding of transgender people has come a long way since “Ed Wood.””
“Dee LaValle is director of the 45th Fantasia Fair, which is coming to Provincetown Oct. 20-27. “It’s evolved with the times,” says Dee LaValle, director of Fantasia Fair. “The needs of the community 45 years ago are different than the needs of today. It was a different dynamic back then.””
“The nonprofit parent of Fantasia Fair is the Transgender Education Association, and women and men who identify as trans are now an essential part of the Fantasia Fair experience. Transgender, as a term, refers to a spectrum of gender identities (male-to-female; female-to-male) and gender fluidity. Identity is key, not surgery or biology, and thus transgender has largely supplanted the term “transsexual.” Classic cross-dressers, even if they identify as cisgender in public, have an aspect of private gender fluidity that is an essential part of them. Seen this way, transgender identity is existential: you are assigned a gender at birth, based on biology, but what you actually “are” is what you define yourself to be, based on your own inner truth.”
“In 1975, LaValle says, “Fantasia Fair was more of a solitary organization. Now partners are more important and are more part of the situation.” LaValle’s “significant one,” or S.O., Jolie LaValle, is a cisgender woman, and leads workshops and other activities for other S.O.s at the fair.”
““With society being more accepting,” Dee LaValle says, “there are more people coming out later in life. They can come down to Provincetown, to the fair, and decide for themselves who they are. You might have somebody come to the fair and present male for the entire week, and then present female only once, at the end.””
“There are conferences for trans people all over the world, but Fantasia Fair is different. “This experience is unique,” LaValle says. “It’s a full-immersion event. It’s not a little dance here or dinner there. It’s 24-7 for a week. It’s a freeing experience. That’s what makes the town so wonderful. You can walk around and befriend people who live and work here. At conferences, it’s all controlled. Believe me, I like being around all trans people. But actually, having a relationship with the folks in town is pretty amazing.””
“There are all sorts of workshops, keynote speakers, and events at the fair, some of them educational, some therapeutic, some practical, and some entertaining. And while the fair is not an activist organization, “a significant number of political hopefuls cut their teeth here,” LaValle says. Many trans elected officials participate — state Rep. Gerri Cannon from New Hampshire, for example, will teach a workshop this year. “The Yes on 3 campaign was really huge last year,” LaValle says, referring to the ballot question on transgender rights that was ultimately approved by Massachusetts voters. “You know what the number one community that voted yes was? Provincetown. Ninety-two percent.””
“Provincetown has always been a magnet for drag queens, both amateur and professional, but how do they fit in the transgender spectrum? The drag world, LaValle says, “is a little bit separate as a community.” Drag queens assume the female gender as a theatrical persona, or simply to entertain. Though they use female names and pronouns for their drag personas, they often identify as cisgender men in their private lives. “Typically, a drag queen is more connected to the gay community,” LaValle adds. “This is just my opinion.””
“Stonewall will be commemorated at the fair, and some of the people at the front lines of the riots, such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, were known as drag queens in the earlier years of the movement, though they ultimately identified as trans women. Indeed, everyone in the post-Stonewall era besides white gay men — lesbians, bisexuals, transgender people, people of color — was given short shrift. AIDS helped to change all that, but so did the tireless activism of disenfranchised groups under the LGBT umbrella.”
“The Follies, a fair event on Friday night at the Crown & Anchor, is open to the public. Participants perform as entertainers, some of them for the first time as trans women or trans men. “It’s a really powerful experience for a lot of people,” LaValle says.”
“It’s also a way to give back. “We’re a generous community,” LaValle says. “All of the proceeds from the Follies, all the tips, go to a local cause or charity. Once we gave it to the Provincetown Police Dept. One year it was for equipment for the fire department. Last year, we sponsored events at the UU. This year it’s the LGBT Welcome Center. It’s our way of giving back to the people of Provincetown.””
Boston Spirit Magazine (2021)
Reimer, Alex (2021, June 27). Return of Provincetown’s theme weeks Boston Spirit Magazine,
“Dee Grace LaValle was so overcome with emotion, she sat down at the Pilgrim Monument and started to cry. She was attending her second Fantasia Fair, and for the first time, it clicked: She is a woman.
It’s the kind of life-changing revelation that can only happen in Provincetown, where tens of thousands of LGBTQ+ people flock every year to live their truths—and socialize amongst their own, free and without fear of judgment. For LaValle, that means embracing her trans identity. Her experiences at the Fantasia Fair, the longest-running transgender event in the world, were instrumental in her coming-out journey.
“It was a really moving experience to me,” said LaValle. “I realized at that point that, yep, this is who I am. I haven’t looked back since.”
With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, Provincetown is fully open for business, and that means the return of its cherished theme weeks.
While Provincetown was far from the only resort haven to cancel festivals and events due to COVID-19, a summer without Bear Week or Carnival was uniquely devastating. These celebrations encourage individuality, and for many, the freedom is intoxicating. Take it from this twunk: There are few feelings more euphoric than galivanting around the Boatslip in a crop top and booty shorts (with a Planters Punch in hand, of course).
While LGBTQ+ people still vacationed in Provincetown last summer, the vibe of Commercial Street was different without the steady stream of ebullient revelers. There were fewer queens and more strollers. Anthony Fuccillo, the director of tourism, says his goal this year is to re-queerify P’town.
“Without the theme weeks, it was a really different feeling in town,” he said. “There was an absence of the LGBTQ community last year. It changed the dynamic.”
So what does it mean to re-queerify one of the queerest places on Earth? There’s the newly created Provincetown Queer Council, whose members were announced on Pride Weekend during an event at Provincetown Brewing Company. They’ll operate as tourism ambassadors during theme weeks, ensuring the festivities are welcoming to all members of the community.
‘Express Yourself Days’
In that spirit, “Express Yourself Days” are scheduled during the major theme weeks, including Carnival. On those days, costume is encouraged, and atavistic social norms are meant to be flouted.
“I grew up in rural Oregon, and I wouldn’t even wear [there] what I wear to the grocery store here,” said Jonathan Hawkins, a local producer and performer who puts on shows at the Crown and Anchor all summer long. “[We need] to remind people this is a LGBTQ community, and that we need to represent all of what that means and all of whom that includes so that this never becomes a place where someone doesn’t feel able to walk down the street in overalls and a pair of high heels.”
Amen to that. Carnival is when Provincetown’s beautiful weirdness really shines, and this year, the late-summer party is back on. Started in 1978 by LGBTQ+ innkeepers who wanted to highlight Provincetown’s artistic legacy, there is always a specific theme to the celebrations. This year, the category is: “Over the Rainbow.”
The Provincetown Business Guild, an organization of 300 businesses whose mission is to drive LGBTQ tourism to the town, produces Carnival each year, along with Pride, Holly Folly and First Light. Bob Sanborn, the executive director, says canceling the revelry outright was never an option for 2021. Still, Gov. Charlie Baker’s announcement that Massachusetts would reopen on Memorial Day Weekend caught everyone by surprise. Within three weeks, the PBG put together a full Pride slate, complete with a dance party at A-House and a sunset cruise sponsored by Baystate Ferries.
“A year ago, we were in cancellation mode,” he said. “This year, we’ve been in planning mode. That’s a big difference.”
One of the lingering questions is the fate of the Carnival Parade, which typically takes place on Thursday of that week. There will most likely be a costume parade and some stationary floats—just a notch below the typical offerings. Though vaccinations are rising and COVID-19 cases are plummeting, we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. Safety remains the top priority.
With that in mind, business owners are asking for some understanding this summer. Up until May 17, Massachusetts wasn’t expected to fully reopen until Aug. 1. It’s not easy to ramp back up to full capacity, especially when there are worker shortages. Due to a confluence of circumstances—COVID-19, housing shortages, visa delays—businesses are struggling to attract seasonal help. It may take a few extra minutes to get that vodka and soda at the P’town Inn pool, but rest assured, you will get it.
“Bring a fierce look and some patience,” said Hawkins.
Self-discovery & affirmation
As town manager, Alex Morse is focused on the array of challenges facing Provincetown as it emerges from COVID-19, beginning with its growing inequities. But he’s optimistic about the future. Morse, who became mayor of Holyoke, Mass. when he was 22 years old, remembers being enamored with Provincetown whenever he would visit as a young kid. It’s the first time he saw people being their true selves.
“As a kid, you can immediately feel it’s a very unique and special place,” he said. “It’s just a special place, and you feel that working here and living here.”
Comedian Kristen Becker fell in love with Provincetown’s magic when she started performing there 14 years ago during Women’s Week, and now, wants to share it with others—mainly marginalized LGBTQ+ youth. Growing up in Louisiana, Becker knows what it’s like to feel isolated. After reading an article in her local paper about the dangers of being young and queer in the South, she came up with the idea to bring LGBTQ+ kids to the metaphorical end of the earth. Through her Summer of Sass program, Becker gives teens from rural and conservative America the chance to live and work in Provincetown, and see they aren’t alone.
After a painful hiatus, the program is already back up and running, hosting two brothers from Defiance, Ohio. One of them told Becker he had never even seen two men hold hands before.
“You think about what kind of impact that has on a kid,” she said. “I had some kids in the program who were heavily medicated for anxiety, and now they’re not, because they stopped getting stared at.”
Yes, debauchery and hedonism are important, but the most powerful part of the P’town experience is the room it allows for self-discovery. Take LaValle, for instance. She did not come out as transgender until later in life, and her partner and kids had to adjust. The Fantasia Fair saved her family. Now, she’s on the planning committee. The seven-day conference is scheduled for Oct. 17–24.
“Provincetown gives you that safety and that security where no one’s looking over your shoulder, no one’s staring at you,” LaValle said. “No one’s doing any of this, and the noise of everything else just drops away.”
That’s how LaValle felt at the Pilgrim Monument that day. For the first time, she was at peace.
“We always leave Provincetown better than we arrive,” she said.”
Provincetown Independent (2021)
Keller, Saskia Maxwell (2021, October 27). It’s Fun Being Trans; A Report from Provincetown’s Fan Fair 2021 Provincetown Independent,
“In November 1980, a journalist named D. Keith Mano wrote an article for Playboy titled “It’s No Fun Being a Girl.” The article — which I read thanks to a one-month subscription that I mustn’t forget to cancel — is about attending Provincetown’s Fantasia Fair, then mostly a convention for cross-dressers and “transvestites.”
Mano went undercover as “Deirdre” — silicone boobs, Naired legs, wig. It’s very entertaining, if dated — he described P’town as “the foreskin on old Cape Cod, that bent and flaccid peninsula.” Early on, Mano wrote, “My toes are crushed, choked by the down-slant squeeze of my three-inch-high strap footwear. Size ten and a half, also EEE — which is both my width and a sound I want to make.” At one point, Mano, who was perhaps best known as a columnist for William F. Buckley’s National Review, described making out with a fellow Fantasia Fair attendee and wanting to vomit.
Even so, when “It’s No Fun Being a Girl” first came out, Dallas Denny read it, enraptured. Deterred by a line about Fantasia Fair’s price tag — “Per room, per week, it costs an arm, a leg, and the stuffing in your hubba-hubba heinie,” Mano wrote — she held off attending until 1992. But it was a sign that there were other people out there who might understand her. Denny would later become the fair’s director for six years.”
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“Writing about Fan Fair 41 years later, I have one big advantage over Mano. I didn’t have to go as anyone but myself. As a nonbinary person, I’m a member of this community, not an outsider. I showed up to registration in my street clothes (jeans, binder, button-up) and was handed my badge: “Saskia Keller. They/Them.”
Fan Fair (which ran from Oct. 17 through 24 this year) has changed a lot since 1980. It’s now firmly a transgender event, though some attendees still identify as cross-dressers. This is reflected in Fan Fair’s rebranding — it’s no longer about “fantasy” or spectacle but rather identity and reality.
Many attendees use pseudonyms or conceal their last names. Perhaps they aren’t out in their hometowns because it isn’t safe, or they aren’t ready. Photography is regulated — badges with a crossed-out camera denotes those who wouldn’t want to be surprised with candids. There are workshops for couples as well as ones focusing on mental health, medical procedures, and transgender history.
While most attendees are older white trans women, director Dee LaValle said that Fan Fair is trying to attract more trans men, nonbinary people, 20-somethings, and people of color. But, as in 1980, Fan Fair’s cost remains prohibitive to some. The early bird registration rate is $550 for the week. Though Fan Fair offers scholarships, they could be better publicized.
One workshop that I attended was “Trans-Generational Coalition Building,” led by Ivy Monroe. As we took inventory of ages, a clear divide emerged. A half-dozen people were under 35. Most of the rest were over 55. One younger attendee remarked that the cost of registration was more than they made in a month. Would that money do more good if given to a transgender charity? Spirited discussion ensued.”
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“While Fan Fair wasn’t always comfortable — I experienced some imposter syndrome about not being “trans enough” — it was enlightening to speak to “elders” in the community and people with different experiences than mine.
One highlight was “Common Threads” on Wednesday night. The event used to be a fashion show, but that catered too much to certain subsets of the transgender community. Not everyone can afford a ball gown, let alone wants to wear one. The event is now about strutting your stuff in whatever clothes feel most comfortable.
Friday night culminated in the “Follies,” a talent show. There was a rather avant-garde performance titled “Yeah Yeah” involving loud music and drumming by Mary Beth Cooper. Alyssa Grant’s rendition of “No Matter What” was strikingly beautiful. It was moving to see people being so authentically themselves onstage.
The week made me realize just how lucky I am to be able to live here. “In Provincetown, you can turn the noise off,” said LaValle. “You can listen to your heartbeat and what it’s telling you. The town is like training wheels for your life. When I first came here, I remember thinking, ‘Now I know what it felt like when the Pilgrims first saw land.’ ””
Leslie Fabian, My Husband is a Woman Now (2014)
Fabian, Leslie. (2014). My husband is a woman now: A shared journey of transition and love. Virtualbookworm.com.
The Fabians are long-time attendees of Fantasia Fair. Leslie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
My Husband’s a Woman Now is the personal, heartfelt tale of a wife supporting her mate’s transition to female, while grieving the loss of her male partner. It’s a love story, abounding with tales of the Fabians’ challenges, changes, and ultimate triumph over the radical upheaval of their lives…by their own choice.
“Imagine having a secret about yourself, one so huge and secret that you’ve hated it for as long as you can remember. So far you’ve kept it at bay and have done everything right throughout your life; dressed acceptably, played sports, excelled in school, married your high school sweetheart. You’ve had children, become successful in your field–far surpassing average–and mastered a variety of sills and talents.
“For all intents and purposes, your life appears ideal. But year after year, regardless of accomplishments and appearances, happiness eludes you. Eventually you begin to know for certain: what stands in the way of satisfaction and joy is that dreadful secret which demands to be revealed, insisting to be acknowledges in some as-yet unknown way.”
Stana, Fantasia Fair Diaries (2015)
Stana. (2015, August 28). Fantasia Fair diaries. CreateSpace.
Long-time Fantasia Fair attendee Stana writes a book about her experiences!
“Unlike most other transgender conferences which typically keep its attendees cooped up in a high-rise and high-priced hotel, Fantasia Fair is unique. Instead of being stuck in a hotel for a long weekend, you have the run of the town for over a week! According to the Fantasia Fair website, ‘its takes place in beautiful Provincetown–a wonderfully accepting community where anyone can mingle in the streets in friendship, safety, and acceptance. Yes, you really are welcome and free in all of Provincetown, and yes, you will make friends at Fantasia Fair that you will keep forever.'”
“Next I attended a practice session for the fashion show, Yes, I am modeling in the annual Fantasia Fair Fashion Show before an audience of civilians and trans-people alike, and it should be the thrill of a lifetime (up to now)…. The first step from the stage to the catwalk is a doozy, so I plan to take it slow in my killer heels!”
Jeanette de Beauvoir, Murder at Fantasia Fair (2017)
De Beauvoir, Jeannette. (2017, 27 September). Murder at Fantasia Fair. HomePort Press.
Wedding coordinator Sydney Riley never thought she’d get caught up in a murder investigation, but she became an amateur sleuth when her boss was killed during Bear Week. Now she’s back, this time as the Race Point Inn hosts Provincetown’s venerable transgender event, Fantasia Fair… and murder is once again an uninvited guest!
“I took a swig of the drink and this time didn’t spit any out. ‘Listen, Glenn, he didn’t do this.’
“’Of course he didn’t.’
“’And besides…’ Okay, Sherlock, think, don’t just react. ‘What possible motive could he have? Seriously? Mike doesn’t even know any of the Fair people, he told me so. Except for Rachel, of course. But besides that. You don’t go around killing people you don’t know.’
“’Of course not,’ said Glenn. ‘Two more,’ he said to Maryellen.
“’I don’t need another drink,’ I said.
“’Of course you do. Two more, Maryellen.'”
Rainbow Times (2014)
Lefton, Clara. (2014, November 6). Fantasia Fair hosts 40th Annual Conference in Provincetown, Mass. Rainbow Times. Pictured: Jamison Green and Mariette Pathy Allen. Photo by Dan McKeon.
“To continue to foster this relationship with the town itself, Fantasia Fair makes a point of giving back to the community every year. The Fair started this tradition on its 25th anniversary in 1999. In the past the board has bought the fire department a defibrillator, raised money toward a new Segway scooter for the local police department, and was even the largest private donor in the building fund for the town’s new library.
“The 2014 Fantasia Fair raised $3000 for Helping Out Women, a local nonprofit with a mission statement for ‘women with chronic, life-threatening, and/or disabling illness.’ All of the money for this donation was raised at the Fantasia Fair Follies, an annual cabaret event featuring a variety of performers, singers, and musicians.”
TG Forum (2014)
Rivera, Sirena. (2014, November 10). Sirena attends the Fair– Fantasia Fair 2014. TG Forum.
“I call Fantasia Fair my New England Brigadoon. Yes, it comes around more frequently and lasts longer than the fabled village in the Broadway musical, but you get the gist. Fantasia Fair has a special magic for me. While I am able to present femme at home, not even a friendly place like New Hope has that level of protection and acceptance that Provincetown offers. I’m also very biased, as I lived in New England for a period of time and came to fall in love with it. I would love to move back there someday and not just because it would be easier to get to the Cape or to Martha’s Vineyard.
One is truly welcome, accepted, and liberated at Fantasia Fair, and while, admittedly, it is on the more costly side compared to other transgender events, one needs to take into account the fact that there is a wide range of activities, as well as the fact that most meals are covered. And the food is wonderful, which is consistent with the whole experience. Else and I have met kindred souls and friends for life, we get some time to ourselves, as well as access to a pretty neat little town. And if the cost is too much, there are opportunities to apply for scholarships. There are also options to attend for half a week, if a week is simply too much.”
Roberts, Monica. (2015, 20 October). 2015 Virginia Prince Transgender Pioneer Award acceptance speech. TransGriot.
“Thanks also to the Fantasia Fair team that has worked hard to not only make it possible for me to be standing in front of you delivering this speech, but is working daily to make this week a special and enjoyable one for all of you here in attendance here in Provincetown today and for the rest of the 41st edition of this conference.
“I am pleased and proud to be standing before you making history this afternoon as the first African-American transperson to be honored by Fantasia Fair with the Virginia Prince Transgender Pioneer Award. I enthusiastically accept it on behalf of myself and the trans ancestors who preceded me in proudly living our trans lives and fighting for our humanity and freedom.”
“We also need as a trans community to be proactive in tackling systemic race issues in our ranks and doing the hard work to dismantle racism, sexism, homophobia and internalized transphobia in our ranks. Some of our trans brothers need to stop being as misogynistic as their cis masculine counterparts and be the quality men of trans experience we know they can be.
And as Precious Davis and Myles Brady have been role modeling lately, trans men and trans women loving each other is a powerful and revolutionary act.”
Cape Cod Today (2017)
Fantasia Fair donations to support P-Town history. (2017, 25 July). Cape Cod Today: Cape Cod Community News.
“We really appreciate how the town welcomes us each year so we try to say thank you whenever we can. One way we show our appreciation is by helping various Provincetown charity and civic organizations. Over the years, we have raised over $60,000 for organizations that serve the people of Provincetown and Cape Cod. We have made contributions to the town library, the local police department, an AIDS support group, a woman’s shelter, the local soup kitchen, a senior services group, a summer camp for LGBT youth, and we helped buy the fire department a life-saving defibrillator. The Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum is a natural fit for our efforts.”
TG Forum (2020)
Jaelle. (2020, May 25). Spread The Love. TG Forum.
“Last October I went to Provincetown, Massachusetts with my friends, David and Jerry. No, because of David and Jerry. Provincetown, or Ptown, is a resort town all the way at the tip of Cape Cod. It is owned and operated largely by members of the LGBT community, and a well-known vacation spot for the nation’s LGBT citizens. I’ve known gay men who have gone there. It’s like a gay Mecca, or a bucket list item; perhaps every gay man should visit there once. Jerry and David are a married couple at the local LGBT Center who I have come to know and love.
They told me about this thing in Ptown called Tall Ships. What’s Tall Ships? Well, David said, imagine a town taken over by 6’ people. In 4” heels. Tall Ships. One week a year, Ptown is taken over by trans women. And some trans men. It’s called Fantasia Fair, and this year it was the 45th annual. People come from all over the country. There is a fashion show. A talent show. Open Mic Night. Writer’s workshops, panel discussions, hair and makeup workshops. Just… amazing. Next, I learn that David is a retired professor. His area of expertise is in gender roles and sexuality! He has gone to Fantasia Fair several times over the years, and knows and has worked with all the old grand dames. He says he has told the Fair’s founder, Ariadne Kane about me, and she wants to meet me. Me! What? How? Could you even?
With help from my dear friend Kathy, I got a week’s worth of dresses and fall wardrobe together. My friend Pam and I auditioned every outfit. Jewelry, shoes, bag. Everything. And with I think $140 to spend, I went. Kathy had warned me, don’t talk too much, don’t obsess, just be calm and let things flow. Leona quite simply said, don’t be you. Same thing. Sound advice.
David and Jerry collected me early the morning of our departure. There and back we drove 10-12 hours, stayed in a motel, and finished the journey with a 2-3 hour morning drive. The drive up the Cape was pretty glorious. All the names of the towns, businesses, and roads were just dripping with history. We could see the ocean and the bay from time to time out our right and left windows. As we got close to Ptown, I think I actually began to vibrate.
Provincetown, Massachusetts is a charming little town. The main street, Commercial, is just jammed with colorful shops and restaurants. It reminds me of the oceanside resort towns I haunted in southern California, like Venice Beach. But East Coast. The climate. The architecture. It was instantly fun. And gorgeous. And my patrons, my mentors, my spirit guides knew where to drive, where to park, where to register, everything.
We registered, we received itineraries, swag bags, and so on. The woman who checked us in was Dallas Denny. A goddess. A transgender pioneer. David introduced us. As Dallas and David chatted for a few minutes, I took a seat at a little group of chairs around a glass table. This woman was pontificating, about what I honestly don’t remember. Hello, I introduced myself. “My name is Jaelle.”
“Don’t you know who I am?” She asked me. No, I don’t. “I’m Mariette Pathy Allen,” she announced. She looked at me, waiting for. . .what? Recognition? Contrition? Apology? Well, I’m sorry, but I’m a bit of a smartass. I offered none of these things and waited for more revelation. “I’ve written four books,” she pronounced. “I’ve read four books,” I responded. I came to learn that she is a photographer, at times THE photographer for Fantasia Fair, and while not exclusively focused on the transgender community, her work is considered very important. She’s actually a lovely and interesting woman, and I found myself dancing with her late that Friday night.
Every hour of every day there were two or more events to choose from. Workshops, seminars, lunches. It was so active. So busy. So fun. David announced that we were having breakfast with Ariadne Kane the next morning.
Now let’s just take a minute here to discuss the food. Every breakfast, every lunch, and especially every dinner was, I don’t know, I’m just an ignorant old woman from Cleveland, but it was five star. Or five star-ish. I felt there was a chef looking over every plate that left every kitchen for every meal. Every vegetable seemed to have been picked, and every seafood caught that morning. Just the brightest, freshest flavors, beautifully prepared and presented. Every meal was just perfect.
After registration, we went to lunch at the Lobster Pot. As we sat at a table waiting for our food, a couple came in and sat at the next table. It was a trans woman and a cis woman. As they walked past, the trans woman put her hand on my shoulder and gave it a friendly squeeze. That little act of friendly kindness touched me. After a couple of minutes, I turned and greeted them. The cis woman beamed at me and said, “You look so different!” Reading my puzzled face, and studying me a little closer, she said “Oh! You’re not so-and-so!” Not for the last time that week, I was told how much I resembled someone. They were extremely pleasant and fun, and I felt that we became fast friends. They told me they had been married for years. In fact, their marriage predated her wife’s transition. As it turned out, they were holding one of the seminars. She had written a book entitled I Married A Woman, documenting their journey through life and marriage. A delightful couple.
David and Jerry had procured us rooms right in the center of the activities. Right in the middle! A wonderful suite of rooms, like an Airbnb apartment. The next morning, we met Ariadne Kane for breakfast. She had already arrived and was seated at a table for eight. Introductions were made, and she told everyone where to sit. You sit there. You sit there. Jerry, you sit there. No, no, there. She sat me on her left. Obviously, planning and organizing are in her DNA. Breakfast was delightful, as everyone shared common memories and remembered persons past.
The week went quickly. Not hurriedly, not frenetic, but at a lively pace. I attended Sephora beauty workshops. I can now do a smoky eye! I attended writer’s workshops. It was amazing. I met women from Los Angeles to London. The Gala, the talent night, and the Fashion Show were so much fun. There was an Open Mic night, and I got this crazy idea to perform. For the first time in my life, at 65 years old, I did a stand-up routine. It was so much fun.
There are three or four restaurants providing lunches each day. You are to choose them at registration and you receive a ticket for that particular lunch for each day. I was chatting with one of the volunteers one day who said they were collecting tickets in a restaurant for lunch that day. Ariadne Kane breezed in, greeted someone or other, and sat at their table. “Oh my god!,” the volunteer thought. “I’m responsible for collecting the tickets. Am I to go ask her for hers? What if she doesn’t have one?” I said, “No. When Anna Wintour shows up at Fashion Week, no one asks her for a ticket.”
The bottom line is, Provincetown is sumptuous. Fantasia Fair is a glorious event, and should indeed be on every transgender woman’s, and man’s, bucket list. It’s entertaining, educational, and beautiful. I am truly standing on the shoulders of Dallas Denny, Mariette Pathy Allen, Ariadne Kane, and all the beautiful women who built this fabulous, now 44-year-old event.”
TG Forum (2021)
danabevan. (2021, Nov 1). Fantasia Fair — The “Tribe” You Can Choose. TG Forum.
“Yes, the Grand Dame of transgender conventions is alive and well. I attended Fantasia Fair last week. This gathering has been going on since 1974 with only a minor interruption for Covid-19, last year. Provincetown Massachusetts is a little chilly at this time of the year but the participants and the town still provide their famed warmth which they have provided for those previous 46 years.
How has this celebration lasted so long? What has it adapted to and why has it survived when so many others have not?
What has Fantasia Fair Had to Adapt to?
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First, it has survived cultural and economic changes that made it easier for transgender people to access goods and services needed by transgender people. Conventions were no longer needed for the know-how of being transgender. Fantasia Fair presentations have evolved from things like makeup application and dress to personal issues such as maintaining spousal intimacy and transition issues.
Second, it has survived transgender terminology wars. It started out as a crossdressing convention and adapted to become a transgender convention, reflecting the trend away from the sexual connotations of older terms such as transvestite and crossdresser. ( As I have explained on this site, those connotations, like a lot of transgender terms are in error. Magnus Hirschfeld who coined the term transvestite believed that sexuality was not the main cause of transgender behavior. Subsequently, psychiatrists did a good job of sexualizing and pathologizing these terms since they wanted to support Freud pseudoscience for fun and profit.) I heard a few people use the word “tranny” but no one took offense. (I remember it as a term of endearment and hope it comes back). “Transsexual” was not a horror word here, like it is in some quarters. At Fantasia Fair you can call yourself whatever you want and use whatever terminology you favor. Words do not get in the way of communicating warmth at this gathering.
Third, so far, it has survived the left-right cultural wars. People were not there to espouse any particular political agenda and those topics did not come up much. There was concern about transgender rights but most of the older folks had experienced worse political environments, as well as long-term corrosive secrecy. They were confident that being transgender was here to stay.
Fourth, it has survived the trend towards older people coming out and transitioning. It appeared that many of the people there were tolerant and there was a lot of sharing about the experience of transition. Many of the people had come to understand that they were transgender at a later age and were just now exploring transition. Although I knew that I was transgender at the age of 4, I came out in my 50s. So, I fit right in.
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Fifth, it has adapted to the trend towards more transgender females becoming males and the accompanying initiative to make transgender transition “sexual orientation blind” which did not reach prominence until the 1990s. Louis Sullivan and Lin Fraser were the principals that supported these ideas. Trans men seem well integrated into attendance and leadership of Fantasia Fair. Sexual orientations of all types of transgender people are represented. Since Fantasia Fair is sandwiched between Provincetown Women’s Week (strong lesbian representation) and Men’s Week (strong gay men representation) there are visitors from both groups whose vacation overlaps during Fantasia Fair. I met and had great conversations with a dozen or so lesbians who all invited me to come next year to Women’s Week. When I said that I did not have a woman to bring with me, they promised me that there were many unattached women who attend and one said that they “would fix me up”.
Sixth, Fantasia Fair is open to new ideas. I gave a “science of transgender causation presentation”. But I made it more personal, telling it as my journey to understand why I am transgender. I had several attendees come up to me afterwards, saying that before the talk they were skeptical, but ended up accepting what I had to say.
Why Has Fantasia Survived? I believe that there are at least four factors that have allowed it to survive.
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The first factor is the location and environment of Provincetown itself. It is well removed geographically from urban areas in the East, yet accessible. Anyone who is concerned about meeting someone there that they know in another life, need not be. The Fair is not held in a big hotel—there are no big hotels there. Attendees are spread out all over. And the excellent restaurants and shops are small and concentrated along Commercial Street which is narrow and one-way with narrow or non-existent sidewalks. This means a lot of interesting walking but also walking in the streets and dodging slow moving cars. Even the traffic cops are mostly on foot. I talked to a young one at some length and she was a delight, giving no indication that her acceptance of transgender visitors was a pretense to stimulate commerce.
The second factor, I believe, is strong management. It is a “Bevanism” that there is no substitute for good management (In my life, I have seen a lot of good and bad examples). Other conventions have failed because of poor management. Where others have strayed from their goals, Fantasia Fair leadership has stuck to the goal of providing a safe space for “gender outlaws”. This started with crossdressers but now includes people who describe themselves as transgender, gender non-conforming and transsexuals. The aim was/is for such people to learn from each other, socialize and have some fun. Management seems to have succession plans and seem to be following them, allowing new people to learn about what it takes to put on the convention. They have a scholarship fund to include those with lesser means. And my perception is that “kingdom builders” get weeded out early. Kingdom builder leadership has killed a few transgender conventions. I talked to a couple of attending “observers” from another transgender convention who were trying to understand the success of Fantasia Fair. Fantasia Fair welcomed them with open arms. Fantasia Fair does not want to try to corner the market on helping transgender people.
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The third factor in my opinion of why it has succeeded is that it is just plain fun. Restaurants and bars are in walking distance (by definition). The Fair has self-generated open mike and follies shows as well as the obligatory gala. One of the new trans women brought her two daughters who all participated in the shows. Girls, boys, gender non-conformists and their allies just wanna have fun!
My fourth belief is that Fantasia Fair has become an attractive subculture all of its own. The word “tribe” was frequently used in the most positive way, indicating people who believe in communicating with one another to help get through life as transgender people. Because they are “cultural outlaws”, transgender people need support to be free and authentic, learning from others and feeling interpersonal warmth. Too many are still isolated. You have heard of the concept of “families we choose”. Fantasia Fair is a “tribe” that people can freely choose. ”
Edge Media Metwork (2021)
Mathew Wexler. (2021, July 10). Inside Provincetown’s Legacy of Transgender Representation. Edge Media Network.
“There’s no denying that when the ferry glides into Provincetown Harbor, those on board feel a shift in the air. The picturesque peninsula on Cape Cod’s northern tip has long attracted those seeking freedom and a place for self-expression.
From the Portuguese immigrants of the 1860s and the varied artists of the 1900s to today’s flourishing LGBTQ community, Provincetown continues to be a haven of acceptance. Among those narratives, Fantasia Fair — newly rebranded as Fan Fair — is one of the most compelling: a 46-year-old legacy that empowers transgender and gender-fluid attendees.
Founded in 1975 by Boston’s Cherrystones support group, the first Fan Fair welcomed 40 participants to Provincetown, a location chosen due to its LGBTQ inclusivity as well as its isolation for those looking for a haven to explore their gender identity. Held mid-October after the height of the tourist season, Fan Fair was the first of its kind, offering workshops, social activities, and medical, professional and relationship resources long before the term transgender was even part of the common vernacular. (This year’s Fan Fair will be held Oct. 17-24.)
The Cherrystones recognized what visitors and locals alike have embraced for decades: Provincetown is a place to just “be.” Regardless of what themed activities one might encounter, the destination’s beauty is not solely sunsets and sandy beaches but the co-existence and intermingling of all facets of our LGBTQ community and allies. It’s what keeps bringing Fan Fair director Dee LaValle back year after year.
LaValle began her transition nearly six years ago. Married with two children and a spouse and career she loved, LaValle nevertheless felt her life was crumbling. A friend suggested attending Fan Fair. “I started to feel my heartbeat,” says LaValle of that first visit. “When I left, I cried like a baby because it was finally revealed what my truth was.”
On the brink of divorce, LaValle asked her wife to come — spouses and partners are a crucial and welcome part of the Fan Fair experience — and she, too, “fell in love with the place,” says LaValle. “Provincetown has a way of taking the noise out of your life.”
LaValle says Fan Fair facilitates the opportunity to enter a community in safety, look in the mirror, wake up every morning and ask oneself, “Is this who I want to be? Is this who I am?” Provincetown, which she refers to as “the training wheels of life,” becomes the backdrop for these life-changing experiences, and not just in workshops or other insular environments. Local hotels, restaurants and businesses have long embraced the annual event and see the transgender community as a vital part of the town’s identity any time of year.
LaValle recognizes the shifting attitudes toward the LGBTQ community and strongly feels that despite broader transgender representation in the media, Fan Fair remains a vital resource.
“I’ve had a career and am moving forward with my journey, but I don’t think for a second that kids have it any easier,” says LaValle. “We still see those backdoor micro-aggressions that keep them from finding jobs. And everyone wants to fight for trans kids, but how will they succeed in life without the Equality Act? A 15-year-old kid who’s not allowed to play on a sports team loses out on developing social skills. It’s not just the sport, but finding friendship and community.”
The Importance of Community Fan Fair offers scholarships for those who would otherwise be unable to attend. Nationally recognized motivational speaker and Director of Health Care Advocates International’s Youth and Family Program Tony Ferraiolo was once a recipient.
“Before I transitioned, I identified as a lesbian and went to Women’s Week,” recalls Ferraiolo. “I didn’t know I was trans; there was no language around it, and it still wasn’t safe to be out back then. But, going to Provincetown, I felt accepted. Like I belonged.”
Ferraiolo had been working as a club promoter, and when he began to question his assigned gender, he discovered unexpected pushback.
“Here’s the truth, a lot of my old community would say, ‘We don’t want anyone putting us in boxes,’ and yet there was a wedge between the LGB and the T because some people didn’t understand. Now, as an international trainer, I say, ‘When you try to understand something you are not, it blocks you from acceptance.’ Everyone struggles with something. Try not to hold people to your own agenda.”
Ferraiolo remembers driving into town on a Sunday morning, ironically, as Women’s Week was coming to an end. He had an anxiety attack and stopped in the parking lot on MacMillan Pier. “I had never met other trans people,” says Ferraiolo. “But then I walked into register for the week and never felt more welcome in a community than when I stepped into that room. It wasn’t just Fan Fair — it was the restaurants and shops, too. I even got a massage and felt very safe.”
Provincetown is often described as magical, but the people are as memorable as the place. Vacationers return because of the warmth and hospitality of its residents and the business owners who see value in every human experience. That kind of energy is irreplaceable, and in many ways, infuses the Fan Fair experience.
Over the years, Ferraiolo has returned to Fan Fair as both a participant and a presenter, last time facilitating a panel of teens to tell their stories and hold a place of gratitude for those pioneers who paved the way. This October, he flips the script, engaging the older trans community to help affirm and empower the next generation.
“The newcomer is near and dear to me,” says LaValle of the importance of Fan Fair intergenerational programming. “What would have happened to us if this didn’t exist? Fan Fair has changed peoples’ lives forever, and it’s impossible to duplicate because it’s all based on the safety of the town that completely accepts us.””
FF Daddy: Miqqi, Muffy, and Jamison at the FanFair Follies
Fantasia Fair 2013: The Movie
Works in Progress (2013)
Audiopedia: Fantasia Fair (2017)
This website houses a large collection of digital copies of transgender material dating back to 1977. It can be found here. Be aware the page is under construction. There’s a lot of material to upload. We will be adding the oldest material first and working toward the present.
At least six libraries and archives house significant collections of Fantasia Fair material:
- Joseph A. Labadie Collection, University of Michigan Library System, Ann Arbor, MI
- Transgender Archives, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada
- Transgender Digital Archive
- Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum, Provincetown, MA
- Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Cambridge, MA
- The Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University Library, Durham, NC
Joseph A. Labadie Collection
The Joseph A. Labadie Collection is part of the University of Michigan Library System. Located in Ann Arbor, it documents the history of social protest movements and marginalized political communities from the 19th century to the present.
In 2000, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Gender Educational & Advocacy (formerly American Educational Gender Information Service) donated its enormous National Transgender Library & Archive to the Joseph A. Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan Library System, Ann Arbor, MI. The NTL&A materials were quickly transferred from Atlanta to Ann Arbor and cataloged and have been available to students, faculty, researchers, and the general public since 2002. Much additional material has been added since the original donation, including many items from the personal collection of Alison Laing and materials donated by Fantasia Fair. Anyone can browse the holdings, which include a wide range of Fantasia Fair materials; there is no need to create an account.
Transgender Archives at University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada
In 2000 the nonprofit Rikki Swin Institute purchased a wide range of transgender-related materials from the International Foundation for Gender Education, Virginia Prince, Ariadne Kane, and the of estate of the late Betty Ann Lind; the Kane and Lind materials are rich in Fantasia Fair items. They were housed for a time in a building in downtown Chicago and eventually donated to the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia, where they are available for examination by students, faculty, researchers, and the general public. The Transgender Archives continues to acquire trans-related material, including items from the personal collection of Alison Laing and materials donated by Fantasia Fair.
After creating an account, anyone can browse the holdings, which include a wide range of Fantasia Fair materials.
Digital Transgender Archive
The idea for the Digital Transgender Archive was born in 2008 in discussions between K.J. Rawson and Nick Matte and made possible by the support of the College of the Holy Cross Digital Commonwealth and two grants awarded to K.J. by The American Council of Learned Societies. From its inception in 2015, the DTA has grown rapidly. It now contains a wide range of digitized historic trans material, including items from the NTL&A in Ann Arbor and the Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria.
Just type Fantasia Fair into the search box and watch the rich variety of material that pops up!
Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum
The Provincetown Museum preserves in its rich holdings the long and fascinating history of Fantasia Fair’s host city–including the history of Fantasia Fair.
In 2016, Fantasia Fair provided the PMPM with a set of Participant’s Guides and other Fair material dating from 1978. We felt it was important to preserve our history locally as well as internationally.
The PMPM is open from 9 am until 5 pm daily.
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
The Radcliffe Institute is Harvard University’s institute for advanced study. It holds papers of Ari Kane-DeMaois, including early organizational records of Fantasia Fair and videos shot at Fantasia Fair over many years. Holdings can be viewed online.
Other materials from Kane are held by the Transgender Archive.
Archive of Documentary Arts
Much of photographer Mariette Pathy Allen’s photographs and many of her papers are archived at Duke University’s Archive of Documentary Arts. Mariette attended many trans conference, including Fantasia Fair, for many years, and took thousands of photographs, many of which found their way into her books Transformations, The Gender Frontier, and Trans-Cuba.
Many other libraries house smaller amount of Fair materials.