If you cant get into 1st gear from a dead stop, ensure the clutch is pressed all the way in before selecting a gear. from the most part, hard to shift in any gear, always check the linkage first, thats always the first assumption cause it has to shift a detent spring from the clutch fork in order for the synchro sleeve to move into the gear ring.
for whining of gear, check your fluid levels, if possible. I do not know if we even have the luxury of a trans dip stick in manuals. (I have not looked at it before), but I assume we dont. When was the last time you had your trans fluid flushed?
2009 Cobalt LS XFE U74
Mods: K&N Typhoon Intake, Option Cat-Back Exhaust, Cosmo Short shifter, Maxxim Ahead 17X7's, MPx shorty antenna, FE5 Strut/shocks, Tein S Techs, Moog endlinks, Moog spring seaters, ZZP shorty header, LSJ downpipe, LNF front grille