Mid-20th Century LGBTQ History Revealed in Newly Released Tell-All Memoir — ‘Farm Boy, City Girl: From Gene to Miss Gina’

ST. LOUIS, May 27, 2020 – MiRiona Publishing and author John “Gene” E. Dawson recently announced the official release of his historic memoir, “Farm Boy, City Girl: From Gene to Miss Gina.” The book details Gene’s life growing up in Depression-era Iowa in a poor farming Irish-Catholic family and his adult years spent living on the LGBTQ cultural edge in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and in St. Louis. “Farm Boy, City Girl” is a rare glimpse into the tumultuous and rugged history of LGBTQ individuals in Middle America, told by one who was there.

From the book’s Foreword written by Tamara Dawson Bonnicksen:

“Gene’s memoir really is two stories with a transition between. His growing-up years in rural Iowa [and] his adult life in Cedar Rapids and St. Louis.” … “Uncle Gene’s stories are interspersed with photos of his life on the farm and in the cities. The book is a labor of love. It is a gift to Uncle Gene’s family, a gift to Iowa history lovers, and a gift to LGBTQ men and women.”

SYNOPSIS of “Farm Boy, City Girl”

·       Part One, Farm Boy 1931–1949: Gene recounts his years growing up in the Great Depression, moving with his family from rental farm to rental farm until his parents could afford to purchase their own land and home. Life was difficult and often brutal for anyone during this time, but especially so for a gender-fluid gay child/teenager.

·       Part Two, Transition and Tragedy 1950–1959: Gene initially leaves the farm and begins transitioning into his new life as a gay man in the cities of Cedar Rapids and St. Louis, adopting the “city girl” persona of Gina. But the tragic accidental death of his mother forces him to move back to his family’s home in Iowa where he faces gut-wrenching family drama and the loving burden of helping to raise his three younger brothers.

·       Part Three, City Girl 1960–: Gene returns to Cedar Rapids before finally moving on to live an open, full existence as Miss Gina in St. Louis. Even in the city though, life was quite hard for openly gay men, and Gene recounts multiple harrowing tales involving the brutality of police, gay bar life, and the unsung heroism of Midwestern LGBTQ people — years before the famous Stonewall riot of New York City.

Gene Dawson and ‘Gay Home Movie’

Gene’s life story piqued the interest of documentarian Geoff Story and was a topic of an article in “The New York Times” that also told about Story’s upcoming LGBTQ-history documentary, “Gay Home Movie.” Still in production, director Story is basing the documentary on two eight-millimeter films he discovered at an estate sale in 1996. Those films offered an unprecedented glimpse into a rarely seen event: a pool party that reveals much about gay life in Missouri beginning at the time of World War II. As one of the last few living individuals who can share his direct experience of LGBTQ life during that time, Gene was interviewed extensively for the documentary for background history related to the time and locations involved.

Gene Dawson

“We weren’t out there to pioneer anything, but we ended up being that way,” Gene said in the “Times” article. “We had queens that stuck up for everything, too. They don’t give St. Louis credit for anything. They just assume we’re all farmers 10 or 20 years behind everyone else. We were never behind anyone….”

Gene’s book and Kindle eBook are now available for purchase on Amazon.com.

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