When planning to enjoy a day on the sand this summer, it’s important to keep one fact in mind: a trip to the beach and a trip to the gay beach are not the same thing.

The former implies a relaxing day of peace and serenity, complete with lunch on the blanket and maybe a game of catch. The latter, meanwhile, invokes the sound of loud dance and pop music… with some added moaning and groaning from the dunes.

While those are exaggerated stereotypes–gay beach trips can be super calm and relaxing, too!–the point stands. The atmosphere at the two spots is different.

Does that mean gay beaches should be off-limits to heteros, with discarded speedos serving as proverbial lines in the sand?

A straight man recently posted in the “r/gay” subreddit with the question. He says he and his wife are nudists, and love taking their clothes off at the beach. They were recently honeymooning on a small island, where there was only one dedicated nude spot.

The reviews said it was a great beach… and very gay-friendly. For the couple, that was no problem. But the same can’t be said for every sun-seeker. Apparently, at least one gay person was dubious about sharing the space.

“As we were moving down the gentlemen who had been in the spot stopped to talk to my wife,” the poster writes. “At first it was a casual conversation about the weather and the warm temps.

“But he then proceeds to tell my wife ‘that this is a gay beach’ and that ‘it is the only gay beach on the island,'” the man adds, “and lastly ‘women can go anywhere and women like you are going to ruin our spot and you shouldn’t be here.'”

The poster says he understands the importance of protecting queer spaces, but isn’t sure about the prospect of gay gatekeepers on public seashores.

“Were we wrong to hang out at the only gay beach despite the fact that it was also the only nude beach?” he asks. “Should we have sucked it up and gone to one of the others and just worn our bathing suits?”

The answer is not definitive, at least according to hundreds of gay men.

One of the more popular responses is from a user named “TheRealcebuckets,” who says the chiding gentleman went overboard. But he doesn’t think the straight guy and his wife are blameless, either. He alludes to the phenomenon of women frequenting queer bars, and how their presence subtracts from those spaces.

But in this case, the analogy might not be appropriate. Another commenter says a bar is not a beach (though as gay men, we know a gay beach can also be a bar).

“Your comparison to women invading gay bars is a complete false equivalence. A gay bar is a dedicated queer space. It is not a public space,” he writes. “This couple want to a public space (that they are entitled to be in, the same as you) and were told off for not being queer.”

Of course, LGBTQ+ people often experience the inverse, which is why some say it’s OK for there to be queer-only spaces. Being around straight people doesn’t only ruin the vibe. It can make folx feel unsafe.

That’s why gay beach destinations such as Provincetown and Fire Island are so sacred. They’ve both played important roles in queer history.

Oscar Wilde first visited Fire Island in 1882, and millions of gay actors, writers and creative types have followed him since. Decades before the Stonewall Riots, Fire Island was an epicenter of queer liberation. During the 1930s, LGBTQ+ people from Manhattan sought refuge on the two hamlets (Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines), where they were free to express themselves.

In the mid-20th century, Fire Island became the preferred summer destination of Tennessee Williams, Frank O’Hara and Truman Capote. Andy Warhol chronicled the decadent atmosphere in the 1965 film, My Hustler.

Throughout the 60s and 70s, FIP was the summer home of disco. The meat rack’s magic was captured beautifully in the Showtime hit, Fellow Travelers.

Provincetown is also a longstanding queer haven. That was never more clear than at the height of the AIDS epidemic, when P-Town served as a refuge for gay men ravaged by the deadly virus. The epidemic devastated Provincetown, but for many years it remained one of the few places where landlords weren’t afraid to rent to the sick.

Simultaneously, P-Town was also one of the few places were queer artists and entertainers could find regular work. Herring Cove Beach, where men could openly cruise one another on the very tip of Cape Cod, represented the town’s special vibe.

Today, LGBTQ+ travelers seek out gay beaches all over the world. They aren’t just patches of sand.

They are destinations!

Perhaps that’s the message the aforementioned beach cop was trying to convey. “Yeah, maybe he should have been more gentle about it… but the point does stand,” somebody wrote.

“Every beach is a straight beach. People in minority groups have to go through a lot of sh*t to get our own spaces. And even then, it becomes one option for you of many, whereas our options are limited.”

What do you think? Should straight people feel welcome on gay beaches? Let us know in the comments below!

Related: From Mexico to Mykonos, the world’s best gay beaches

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