Gay’s The Word

I took a visit to Britain’s only LGBT bookstore, Gay’s The Word. It was featured heavily in the 2014 film Pride, a lovely effort with Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton.

I was so happy to visit. So many LGBT bookstores in the USA have shuttered. I used to love going to the Oscar Wilde bookshop in New York. Gone. I used to love going to the Lambda Store in DC. Gone. Nobody buys print books anymore. It will be a sad day if Gay’s The Word closes.

I spoke to Jim the cashier, and he admitted that e-readers and the internet have slowed business. But he also said that they have many magazines and publications that are not available online, so that helps keep some customers coming. He said they often have tourists come in because of the film Pride, which is always nice. Jim has worked at the store for 26 years, and knows the former owner of Philadelphia’s LGBT bookstore, Giovanni’s Room. We talked about how gay bookstores have been important for the community, how they do more than just sell a product, they provide visibility, legitimacy, and hope for the community.

Of course I was going to buy something (I wound up buying several things). While browsing the stacks, I found a familiar name:

I was genuinely surprised to see Mark’s book on the shelves. I gave it a little better placement, just in case.

Gay’s The Word was the home base for Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), which was a group who fundraised for the striking miners during the mid-1980s Thatcher years. The group raised 11-thousand pounds during the strike. The alliance that LGSM formed with the miners was one of several key LGBT relationships with labour groups that helped pave the way (by securing allies in government) for greater LGBT civil rights in Britain. Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners is one example of people standing up for a cause without expecting anything in return, but ultimately reaping benefits far beyond what they expected.

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