Allies Behind the Scenes: Early 20th Century Support for Gay Rights

Radclyffe Hall (right) and her lover Una Vincenzo with their dachshunds at the 1923 Crufts dog show. Photo: Harry Ransom Center

In 1928, British lesbian writer Radclyffe Hall’s novel The Well of Loneliness was published. It scandalized official British society, was decried as “a danger to the nation” and was eventually suppressed and censored for being a work of “obscene libel”—not because there was any actual description of lesbian sexual behaviors beyond a kiss and the most oblique mention of sharing a bed. Simply admitting that lesbianism existed was considered a scandalous act, and allowing a lesbian to share her thoughts on what it was like to experience romantic feelings for another woman caused official fear and outrage.

Happily, we now know that Radclyffe Hall received thousands of letters of support from people around the world, gay and straight, following the official ban placed on British publication of her work. That she kept those letters shows how deeply they moved her.
In every cultural moment there have always been those who supported inclusivity and acceptance. When they speak up and announce who they are to the world, or when they prove themselves to be allies, they give comfort and strength to those on the front lines of social change. Even if we don’t feel strong enough to be leaders or to profess our beliefs in public, we do a great service by giving support and encouragement behind the lines. Every good action moves the cause of justice forward.
125 Total Views 2 Views Today