LGBTQ Bookstores Are Dying Out, Unless We Do More To Support Them

The numbers of LGBTQ bookstores in the United States and Canada have plummeted over the last decade. Find the ones in your community and lend them your support before they disappear for good.
Publish date:
September 8, 2014
bookstores, lgbtq issues, specialty bookstores, giovanni's room

Last year, customers of Giovanni’s Room, the oldest LGBTQ bookstore in the country, learned that if its owner and co-founder Ed Horace didn’t procure a buyer, the Philadelphia mainstay would be closing. Although the bookstore eventually closed in May, it announced that a buyer was interested. With an agreement on the horizon, Giovanni’s Room will hold its grand opening on October 10th through 12th.

It was a close call, but a healthy reminder that specialty bookstores promoting, selling and marketing authors of marginalized populations are in desperate need of community support. Much like feminist bookstores, the numbers of LGBTQ bookstores in the United States and Canada have plummeted over the last decade. As of February of 2010, there were around two dozen LGBTQ bookstores. Now, there are only eight. Find the ones in your community and lend them your support before they disappear for good.

Charis Books & More, Atlanta

Charis is a queer-owned and -run feminist bookstore specializing in lesbian popular fiction (romance and suspense), LGBTQ-themed children's books, trans/gender identity, queer literary fiction and politics. Some of the store’s bestselling LGBTQ authors are Ivan Coyote, Janet Mock, Mia McKenzie, Audre Lorde, Julia Serrano, Sarah Waters, Radclyffe, Fiona Zedde, Skyy and Gerri Hill. Charis turns 40 years old in November and is planning a feminist/queer homecoming in Atlanta this fall.

Women & Children First, Chicago

Women & Children First’s original owners, Ann Christopherson and Linda Bubon, just recently turned over the reigns of the bookstore to its new owners, former staffers Lynn Mooney and Sarah Hollenbeck. The store stocks both fiction and nonfiction LGBTQ books in every category in sexual identity and questioning identity. Some of its best-selling authors include David Sedaris, Julie Serrano and John D’Emilio.

Calamus Bookstore, Boston

Calamus has been called “the holy grail of gay bookstores in Boston.” Proprietor Brian Gale sells about an even number of LGBTQ fiction and nonfiction books on homosexuality, gender identity, biography, humor and poetry. Authors Edmond White and Armistead Maupin are big sellers here.

Common Language, Ann Arbor

Common Language, which opened in 1991, carries gay men’s fiction, lesbian fiction, gay and lesbian mysteries, poetry, spirituality, memoir, biography, gay studies, transgender studies, relationships, travel, health books specific to LGBTQ communities, AIDS, sex and sexuality and erotica. Its biggest selling genre is lesbian fiction.

Bureau of General Services – Queer Division, New York City

The Bureau of General Services—Queer Division is a queer cultural center, bookstore and event space. LGBTQ classics are popular sellers at the store, including "Dancer from the Dance" by Andrew Holleran, "City of Night" by John Rechy, "Rubyfruit Jungle" by Rita Mae Brown, "Cruising Utopia" by José Esteban Muñoz, "Against Equality: Queer Revolution Not Mere Inclusion" edited by Ryan Conrad and books by and about David Wojnarowicz. The store attracts customers who are critical of assimilationist tendencies in LGBTQ communities as well as the intersections of art and activism.

Giovanni’s Room, Philadelphia

Founded in 1973, the growth of historic Giovanni’s Room paralleled the growth of Philadelphia’s “out” community. Upon its re-opening in October, it will stock used books alongside its already 7,000 volume inventory of gay men's, women’s, bisexual, and transgender literature. The store will also partner with Philly AIDS Thrift, a local nonprofit dedicated to raising funds for AIDS organizations, to host author readings and LGBTQ events throughout the year.

Outwords Books, Gifts and Coffee, Milwaukee

Since 1993, Outwords Books has served the Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin area, offering LGBT fiction and non-fiction books, DVDs, Rainbow Pride merchandise, greeting cards and magazines. Its bestselling books include new release fiction for both gay men and lesbians. It also features a coffee bar.

Glad Day Bookshop, Toronto, Ontario

Glad Day Bookshop has been operating since 1970, making it the world’s longest running LGBTQ bookshop. Some of its current best-selling authors include Armistead Maupin, Julia Serano, Janet Mock, David Levithan, Staceyann Chin and Tom Cho, as well as Canadian writers Zoe Whittall, Vivek Shraya, Greg Kearney and Farzana Doctor. Its stock of black, trans, youth and Middle Eastern books is expanding rapidly. A recent favorite is Eiynah Nicemango’s "My Chacha Is Gay," a children's book featuring a gay Pakistani uncle.