Last time I was here, I talked a little about what it was like to be gay in the 1920s. My new novel, Ten Days in August, is set in 1896. So what kind of difference does going back in time thirty years make?
The 1890s were a rough time for LGBT people. There was new scholarship on homosexuality and an increased recognition of it in some medical circles, but in the U.S. and Europe, prosecution for sodomy was on the rise. “Gay” as we think of it now wasn’t really a thing yet; men who we’d call gay or bisexual now often married women but hooked up with men on the side. In New York, men could go to find other men in dance halls and clubs, particularly those in what is now the East Village, along the Bowery or tucked into Bleecker Street. Men of the 1890s had their own version of the hankie code, too—men seeking men could identify each other by certain markers: a red ascot, dyed blond hair, a certain way of dressing.