Once upon a time, every major city had a gay bookstore—they weren’t just places to stock up on queer lit, but de facto community centers. Gay bookstores offered a space to meet other LGBT people (besides the bars) and were often the first stop for someone new to town. (Remember, this is before the Internet.)
Sadly, brick-and-mortar dedicated to LGBT titles are fighting to survive in the age of Amazon. But several venerable repositories remain, treasure troves full of knowledge and wonder for queer people and allies. Below, we celebrate some of our favorite LGBT bookstores still in operation.
Bureau of General Services-Queer Division Bookstore, New YorkBureau of General Services-Queer Division
208 West 13th Street, Room 210
Nestled inside the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, the Bureau boasts a carefully curated collection of books, artwork, zines, and more.
Opened by Greg Newton and Donnie Jochum in 2012, it also offers a diverse roster of talks, readings, film screenings, book groups, and workshops. Recent gallery shows include “Love Me Tender,” a survey of artist Jared Buckhiester’s work addressing the eroticism of American archetypes, and a 25th anniversary exhibition on the Lesbian Avengers.
Glad Day Bookshop, TorontoGlad Day Bookshop
99 Church Street
Founded in 1970, Glad Day is thought to be the oldest LGBT bookshop in the world. After nearly going out of business in 2011, it was purchased by a collective and moved to a bigger new location on Church Street. Glad Day also also its offerings to include a coffee shop, café, and cocktail bar.
Gay’s the Word, LondonGay's the Word/Facebook
66 Marchmont Street
Boasting “textual orientation” since 1979, Gay’s The Word is a bookstore, event venue, and meeting space in London’s literary Bloomsbury nabe. LGBT groups like the Lesbian Discussion Group and the Gay Black Group have met for years, fostering a community beyond the written word. (If you’re wondering, the shop’s name comes from a 1951 West End musical by Ivor Novello and Alan Melville.)
Outwords, MilwaukeeOutwords: Facebook
2710 N. Murray Avenue
Another bookstore-coffeehouse combo, Outwords has served Milwaukee’s queer community since 1993. The shop offers a sizeable collection of queer books, magazines, and media, as well enough rainbow gear to deck out a Pride float. Check the store’s website for upcoming book-club meetings and author readings.
Les Mots à la Bouche, ParisWikipedia Commons
6 Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie
Roughly translating to “at the tip of the tongue,” this queer bibliophile’s haunt is appropriately located in the Parisian gayborhood of Le Marais. It offers thousands of fiction titles, biographies and historical treatises, as well as comics, magazines, and DVDs (many of which are in English).
Giovanni’s Room, PhiladelphiaWikipedia Commons
345 S 12th Street
Named after James Baldwin’s 1956 novel, this Philadelphia bookstore has been around since the ’70s. It closed briefly in 2014, reopening later the same year under the ownership of Philly AIDS Thrift.
Now a combination bookshop-thrift store, Giovanni’s Room offers a large selection of new and used LGBT fiction and nonfiction.
Prinz Eisenherz Buchladen, BerlinPrinz Eisenherz Buchladen
Opened in 1978, Prinz Eisenherz Buchladen carries an extensive array of LGBT novels, nonfiction, periodicals, and zines. The owners pride themselves on the shop’s long history, and its connection to the city’s thriving LGBT scene.
Prinz Eisenherz Buchladen moved locations three times before settling into its current space in the central Schöneberg area.
Libreria Complices, BarcelonaLibreria Complices | Facebook
Carrer de Cervantes, 4
This spacious shop, whose name translates to “Accomplices,” sells titles in English, Spanish, and Catalan. Catering to both tourists and locals, Libreria Complices has served the city’s LGBT community since 1995.