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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Independent LGBTQIA+ Bookshops to Visit and Celebrate this Pride Month

By Chloe Brown


Whether it’s a place on the high street or tucked into a street corner, LGBTQIA+ bookshops hold great value across the UK and encourage Pride all year round. In this issue, we look back at the important touchpoints for the queer community and look to the future to continue helping LGBTQIA+ bookstores thrive.


Bookshops have always been integral to the publishing industry to get titles and authors in the path of a multitude of readers both online and in-person. But more importantly, they create opportunities to provide physical spaces for communities to come together, celebrate and learn in safe environments.


Gay’s The Word

66 Marchmont St, London WC1N 1AB


Gay’s The Word is the UK’s oldest LGBTQIA+ bookshop. It opened in 1979, and is now approaching fifty years of being open. In the store, you can find an impressive collection of genres including, but not limited to, young adult fiction, classics, graphic novels, non-fiction and fiction. There is also the option to purchase gift vouchers as a great present for someone you love and who loves books. 


An innovative part of this bookshop is the “Surprise Book” section of their online shop, which allows you to choose a format type and then submit a paragraph regarding your likes, desire to read and things to avoid so that one of their talented booksellers can tailor a mystery queer book to your provided description. Furthermore, if you are outside of London but still want to support Gay’s The Word, you can find their storefront on Bookshop.org and browse their curated lists of titles such as Queer Romance: Enemies to Lovers.


Unequivocally, Gay’s The Word is a cornerstone for people in the community since being set up by a group of gay socialists in the late seventies. Bookshops are more than just a place to buy and sell books, and this is exemplified by this shop. Their longest-running group is the Lesbian Discussion Group, amongst many other groups that use this space to meet and actively engage with the people who show up to explore thoughts and ideas. 


On 20 June, Liv Little, Kate Young and Lotte Jeffs will take part in a book event at the shop, promoting conversation around all types of love in this historic space.


Category Is Books

34 Allison Street, Glasgow, G42 8NN


Opened in 2018 and described as fiercely independent and queer, Category Is Books is home to queer new and second-hand books, history, art and storytelling in general. The books inside naturally span a range of categories in both fiction and non-fiction, all predominantly queer in content. For example, they note stocking detective novels that are mainly lesbian themed, a refreshing take compared to traditional chain bookshop stock where more often than not lesbian content is not easily discovered.


As with Gay’s The Word, this shop uses its space for other events and groups to uplift the LGBTQIA+ community to be involved in and enjoy outside of the bookshop hours. Two standouts are the Queer Creative Writers Group and the monthly Queer Horror Club, amongst other book launches and events.


They have a fantastic “pay it forward” system, where any second-hand queer books can be donated to their shelves and the community can pre-pay for the book or previously mentioned gift voucher for others to use. You do not need to justify why you may need to use the “pay it forward” scheme.


Also, the shop has designated Wednesdays as an autism-friendly day, where the lights are dimmed, they play white noise and keep conversations low with an openness to any further suggestions.


The Portal Bookshop

5 Patrick Pool, York YO1 8BB


Found in the heart of York just off Shambles Market, The Portal Bookshop has been devoted to queer literature, bookmarks, high-quality pins, stickers, flags and a gorgeous range of crafts and jewellery made by local creators since 2018. 


The owner, Lali Hewitson, has described the bookshop's motivations as one to curate an inclusive and welcoming space where people can let their guard down. This is only bolstered by their collection of titles, including picture books, fantasy and sci-fi, surrounded by many different pride flags, which can also be seen popping out of books to signify featuring specific queer content.


This space is vibrant and full of various LGBTQIA+ content and authors. It also utilises the space to engage with the community. Returning this June is the queer/trans run mental health poetry open mic entitled “Sad Poets Doorstep Club.” 


A new addition to the bookshop is the Over The Rainbow Cafe, giving those who want to browse the array of titles a respite above the bookshop itself. As well as the regular cafe menu, they create and serve cakes representing the different LGBTQIA+ flags. Upstairs, there is also a fantastic resource of free clothing for the community to make use of if they are in need of gender-affirming apparel or any other needs.


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