Barrier ~ obstacle, obstruction, stumbling block, impediment.
Before it was called The Winter Loon my novel was titled Barriers. All I could envision for the main characters, Ruth and Gisela, two young women who fall deeply in love, were barriers of all kinds. Ruth and Gisela lived in the Midwest and met each other in 1932.
In New York in the 1920s, queer culture flourished, but by the early thirties, a Broadway play with a lesbian theme opened and closed to biased reviews. The producer, director and players were hauled off to court and charged with obscenity. Bars and clubs closed down. It was the same in Chicago and elsewhere in U.S. cities.
The Depression era squashed the gay nightlife and excesses of the twenties. The avant-garde crowd became the target for those wanting to punish and blame. What had been tolerated became immoral and illegal by the mid 1930s. The 1934 Motion Picture Production Code banned all reference and depictions of gay or lesbian lifestyle from the movies.
Ruth and Gisela’s story isn’t about coming out of the closet. In the thirties there was no closet to come out of. It’s a story about the healing power of love. It’s a story about Ruth breaking down barriers—her own and those of society. It’s a story about a naive young woman searching for a life lived in authentic truth despite the obstacles.
For a short time a couple of years ago I had a friend in her late 90s. She passed away last year. I met her because she was featured on the front page of our local newspaper with fist raised and the caption, “Gay and proud.” The story was about the Gay Pride celebration for that year. It’s a small town. I looked up her phone number and called her, hoping to get first-hand information for my book.
It turned out we both loved jazz and going out to dinner and had many fun nights. She was open about her long-time relationship with the woman she loved and still mourned her recent death. I thought I would learn more about the barriers the two of them faced, the kind you can’t find in history books. I found out more about love than about obstacles. The two of them met in New York City. They ended up living a quiet life in upstate New York, running a B&B before traveling out West.
Perhaps The Winter Loon will remind a generation now fighting to keep marriage equality about how difficult it was before gay advocacy groups formed after the 1969 Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village. Before Stonewall, there was almost nowhere to turn for information unless a person was lucky enough to meet a kindred spirit.
I’ve added a link to a PBS.org film about the Stonewall Riots which is riveting and enlightening about the struggle people faced leading up to the riots:
You might have to copy and paste to view the film.
Thanks for stopping by.
March 31, 2016 at 11:31 am
Really good post …
Remember to link your blog posts to categories and/or tags — for this post you can use The Winter Loon, Women of the 1930s, lesbians, love, history
April 2, 2016 at 8:08 am
I didn’t realize there was ever a time (before recently) when queer culture was accepted. It’s very interesting to me that for awhile in the 20’s, it was widely accepted. It makes sense that the Great Depression would have changed all that. Well, I feel smarter now. 🙂
Doree Weller’s Blog
April 2, 2016 at 8:39 am
How neat with the friendship you were able to have with the older lady; the experiences she must have shared with you.
April 2, 2016 at 8:58 am
Thanks for sharing such an interesting post
Open Minded Mormon A-Z
April 2, 2016 at 10:14 am
Fascinating! I didn’t know about that part of LGBT history. We learned about the movie production code in Film class, but they never mentioned this part. Go figure…
The Multicolored Diary
April 2, 2016 at 11:36 am
Looking forward to this series. Adding you to my RSS reader, so I don’t miss an episode.
Jean, visiting for the A-Z Challenge. @PolarBear60 on Twitter http://pmtoo.jeanschara.com/journal
April 2, 2016 at 12:27 pm
Glad to have you on board.
April 2, 2016 at 2:48 pm
I’m enjoying your series and like others I hadn’t known about the 1920s’ openness to gay people…though it makes sense now in the context of the post-war liberalism. How wonderful that you befriended the lady in her 90s – sounds like you both enjoyed the company.
April 2, 2016 at 4:08 pm
The link you left on my blog Finding Eliza didn’t work, but I found you by clicking on your name. I’m glad you called the woman in the newspaper. I probably would not have had the courage to do so and thereby missed the friendship you found.
April 2, 2016 at 4:24 pm
That was an interesting post about your characters. I was aware of the shift in attitudes, but it’s intriguing to see it turned into a story.
April 2, 2016 at 4:33 pm
I love that The Winter Loon tackles this topic, and can’t wait to read more of Ruth’s story!
April 3, 2016 at 9:15 am
This post hit home for me. At the start of my recent journey I thought I would hit more obstacles than I did. I found that love always trumped the roadblocks…. in most cases, not all. The history of LGBT communities in different cities are fascinating to read.
April 3, 2016 at 10:16 am
Love can smooth the path, but like you say, “Sometimes you hit a home run and sometimes you strike out.” Only way to win is to stay in the game.
April 3, 2016 at 4:20 pm
A beautiful story! Best of luck to you through the challenge.
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May 2, 2016 at 10:00 pm
Thank you for enlightening me. It is intriguing how attitudes change over time and ideas go backwards and forwards…as well as a warning. We can’t take our “rights” for granted and must continue to fly the flame and not just rely on trailblazers from the past.
I am popping over from Cheryl’s Home made Alphabet Soup. xx Rowena
May 3, 2016 at 6:52 am
Glad you stopped by and hope you can enjoy the rest of the alphabet soup. It is a great idea.