Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-06-08



Gayla Turner talks new book uncovering her grandmother's secret queer identity
by Carrie Maxwell

This article shared 608 times since Mon May 23, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

In Gayla Turner's debut book, Don't You Dare: Uncovering Lost Love (BookBaby, May 24), she reveals her Grandmother Ruby's (1896-1977) century-old secret queer identity that she hid from the wider world. This revelation became clear to Turner when she saw Ruby and another woman named Ella's (who was dressed as the groom) June 8, 1915 wedding photo.

"When I found my grandmother's photos, I knew they were important to me," said Turner when asked why she decided to tell her grandmother's story. "However, it was not until I started putting the pieces together that I realized how important the pictures and story were to our LGBTQ+ history. Initially, the story was only going to be about my Grandma Ruby. However, as I researched her past, a bigger story started forming that needed to be told. Her photos and captions tell a story. They are funny, witty, beautiful, and loving—unlike the typical stoic photos taken back then. The pictures were not just one event; instead, they depicted a series of events that involved a substantial group of people.

"I often think about how difficult it must have been for them. Even keeping the photos was very dangerous. If anyone outside the circle of friends found out how deep their relationships really were, everything would change. They could be forced to marry a man their parents selected, run out of town, put into a mental institution or physically attacked."

The book weaves between Turner's discovery of those photos and the story they told alongside her research process that brought her to rural Amherst, Wisconsin where her grandmother grew up.

While researching, Turner approached it much like she would do a large work project. Turner is a bank examiner by day and that entails evaluating and inquiring about financial information to make sure banks comply with the rules.

Turner's true passions lie in the creative world and that includes playing guitar and piano. She got a music degree in college and later wrote and played music in local Los Angeles bands in the early 1980s. When Turner could not afford to pay the rent with music gigs alone she got a job at a credit union and that has led to a 30 year career in the banking world. Turner said a part of her wished she had stuck it out in the music world. Writing this book has enabled Turner to use both her creative and analytical skills at the same time.

At first Turner looked online but she quickly realized that this would be a more difficult process that required outside help. This included hiring a writing coach, joining a writing group and becoming a Wisconsin Historical Society member.

"It turned out to be a ten-year project, and I still feel like I am beginning to understand and trust the writing process," said Turner. "I traveled to Amherst a couple of times because I had a deep need to see, in person, the house where my grandmother lived and to walk the streets she had walked. Most importantly, I felt I needed to breathe the air and smell the ground where everything happened."

Although Turner is not an academically trained historian, she became passionate about LGBTQ+ history while researching for this book but what she found was there is scant information documenting that history.

"I hit many roadblocks along the way," said Turner. "The funny thing is, every time I thought I could not move forward in the story, information I did not see before would be revealed to me. I began expecting the roadblocks and always thanked Grandma Ruby for supplying me with the right hint when I needed it most."

Turner decided to combine the facts she was able to uncover via multiple resources together with her "own interpretation of events" to tell Ruby's story. She said it felt very "organic" to her to do it this way because if she only wrote about the facts the book would be too clinical.

"I have always thought of it as a love story," said Turner. "I often thought about what my grandmother and others were doing right before a photo was taken. And at times, it felt as if I was right there with them. I want the reader to feel and/or understand what it may have been like to be queer a hundred years ago."

Among Turner's findings was a secret lesbian social club led by a local businesswoman named Cora who threw parties for her fellow queer women and their allies at her home. Women from as far as Chicago would travel by train to these gatherings. Turner writes that the locals thought these parties were held so women could strategize ways to find husbands.

"Little did they know, finding a man was not a subject of their conversations," said Turner.

Turner also discovered that the women who wore gentleman's attire like Ella would be called chums or pals in Ruby's photo captions.

In terms of the wedding photos, Turner realized that Ruby's younger brother Leroy and another man she named Wallace (since she was never able to find out his real name) were in some of the pictures. Due to what Wallace was wearing, Turner surmised Wallace must have been a farmhand for Ruby's family and was an unwitting witness along with Leroy to Ruby and Ella's wedding ceremony.

Turner believes her grandmother would be "thrilled" to see her story told if she were alive today.

"I am sure she never imagined a time when she could have legally wed the person she loved," said Turner.

Turner also gives readers a history lesson on the National Purity Party that existed when Ruby was coming-of-age and how there are organizations and people today who also want to harm marginalized communities and women in general.

"It is frightening how quickly the freedoms we have today can disappear tomorrow," said Turner. With the recent draft opinion that would overturn of Roe v. Wade, it is only a matter of time until conservative groups/courts attack same-sex marriage. If you do not think they will, you are not paying attention.

"It is not lost on me that I have written a book that might very well join the list of books banned across the country. That makes it all-the-more important that I tell my story and the stories of my grandmother and her brave friends who dared to live and love as their hearts led them in a rural community in the Midwest one hundred years ago."

Turner told Windy City Times that she has always been fine with her own lesbian identity. The problem was other people in her life including her mother who asked her "How did it happen?" She said being a lesbian in Los Angeles is "vastly easier" than in other parts of the United States.

"This book was written to entertain and educate people," said Turner. "Stories like my grandmother's can help people understand that love is love and that we have every right to be here and to live full lives. In fact, we have always done so like flowers that grow up through cracks in the pavement. Just imagine what we can do when we are nurtured and given the same space and acceptance to grow like anyone else."

Turner also emphasized that "representation matters" and the importance of learning about LGBTQ+ history to "understand who we are and our vital role in society." She added that non-LGBTQ+ need to know that queer and trans people have always existed and "our stories deserve to be told."

See .

This article shared 608 times since Mon May 23, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

LPAC endorses Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot for re-election
-- From a press release - LPWashington, DC — LPAC, the national political organization dedicated to electing more LGBTQ women to public office, announced today it has endorsed Lori Lightfoot as she seeks re-election as Mayor of Chicago. LPAC is committed to ...

Gay News

The group Stud 4 Life celebrates Pride
Local social club Stud 4 Life celebrated Pride on Chicago's South Side. On June 25, members held their Saturday Car Parade. A celebration followed at the Wild Blossom Winery, 9030 S. Hermitage Ave. Wanda B. started ...

Gay News

HRC on how the end of Roe v. Wade impacts the LGBTQ+ community
-- From a press release. Video below. - WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, in light of the dangerous Supreme Court decision in Dobbs ...

Gay News

Russian trial for Brittany Griner to begin July 1
More than four months after she was arrested at a Moscow airport for alleged cannabis possession, a Russian court has set the start date for the trial of U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner for Friday, July ...

Gay News

Back Lot Bash attendees party during Pride weekend in Chicago
The inclusive music fest known as the Back Lot Bash took place June 25-26 at 5238 N. Clark St., in Andersonville. Back Lot Bash started in 2004 in response to the lack of women's events and the limited presence of ...

Gay News

U.S. House passes resolution urging Griner's release
The U.S. House passed a bipartisan resolution calling on the Russian government to immediately release WNBA star Brittney Griner, CNN reported. "Not a day goes by that we aren't thinking of Brittney and working to get ...

Gay News

How Coming Out in the 1970s Helped Me Make Brave, Life-changing Decisions
By Edith Forbes, author of Tracking A Shadow: My Lived Experiment With MS - As a child growing up in Wyoming in the 1960's, I did not know any actual person who was gay. I knew exactly one fact about gay people, a fact universally accepted but never talked about: Gay people were strange. Even ...

Gay News

Maggie Trevor among latest group of Victory Fund-endorsed candidates
Cook County Board of Commissioners candidate Maggie Trevor is included in the most recent group of political incumbents and candidates with the backing of LGBTQ Victory Fund. LGBTQ Victory Fund endorsed 23 more out LGBTQ candidates, ...

Gay News

ELECTIONS 2022 Activist Rick Garcia talks about MWRD race
Longtime LGBTQ+-rights activist Rick Garcia is among those who entered the June 28 primary to win a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District's (MWRD) board of commissioners. Longtime Commissioner Debra Shore, who is a lesbian, ...

Gay News

HRC report: Wage for LGBTQ+ women is 79 cents to the average man's dollar
-- From a press release - WASHINGTON - Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, released new data outlining ...

Gay News

Back Lot Bash taking place June 25-26
The inclusive music fest known as the Back Lot Bash will take place June 25-26 at 5238 N. Clark St., in Andersonville. Back Lot Bash started in 2004 in response to the lack of women's events and the limited presence of ...

Gay News

Clela Rorex, first County Clerk to issue same-sex marriage licences, has died
-- From a press release - BOULDER, CO - Out Boulder County and the family of Clela Rorex are saddened to announce the death of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer pioneering ally, Clela Rorex. On March 27,1975 Clela issued the first ...

Gay News

ELECTIONS Guide to the LGBTQ+s
This year's primary elections—taking place Tuesday, June 28, although people can vote now—will feature many openly LGBTQ+ candidates throughout Illinois. (However, one notable name will be missing as longtime state ...

Gay News

WNBA player and lesbian icon Sue Bird to retire
WNBA legend Sue Bird, who's with the Seattle Storm, will retire after this season, NPR noted. "I've decided this will be my final year," Bird said in a post on her Instagram and Twitter accounts. "I ...

Gay News

Five Worth Finding: WNDR Museum, Prince, queer books, flowers
— WNDR Museum's Pride event "Crafting with Queens": The West Loop museum is usually entertainment and, um, wondrous enough on its own—but during Pride Month, WNDR is queering things up with "Crafting with Queens" on Tuesday, ...


Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.