2 min

MEMO TO: Apathetic Consumers

Why defending a gay bookstore is important

Credit: Xtra files

I received a phone call a couple of weeks ago from Glad Day Bookshop asking me to participate in a fundraiser. Without thinking twice I agreed to read from my upcoming novel. Sure, I’ll take any publicity I can get, but it’s more than that.

Glad Day is in the middle of an ongoing battle with the Ontario Film Review Board. In April 2000, three undercover inspectors bought the porn video Descent from Glad Day. (I’ve seen the Steven Scarborough film and it ain’t bad!) The store was charged with distributing an unapproved film. So they decided to launch a constitutional challenge to the Ontario Theatres Act, which could hit them with hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

But I know my supportive attitude to Glad Day isn’t shared by everyone. Writer Bert Archer, for instance, has suggested that the concept of gay bookstores is old-fashioned.

Well, let me explain why old-fashioned values are, in this particular case, important.

First, there’s Glad Day’s historical role in defending free speech. This is the fifth time Glad Day has been attacked by forces who wish to control what we read, watch and ultimately, think. In 1982 the store was charged with obscenity, and in 1987 they fought back by challenging Canada Customs for its seizure of The Joy Of Gay Sex.

In 1992 they again challenged Canada Customs. And most recently, in 1993, the store was charged with obscenity for the sale of the lesbian magazine Bad Attitude. Glad Day received a small fine, but made its political point for dykes everywhere.

In each of these cases the intrepid little bookstore laid itself on the line to defend your freedom of speech.

Another reason: safety. Glad Day is Canada’s first gay and lesbian bookstore, and one of Toronto’s landmark queer institutions. If you think about it, there aren’t many places in Toronto where you can go (besides bars, bathhouses and a theatre named Buddies In Bad Times), secure that you’re in a queer-positive atmosphere. Occasionally it’s nice to be able to act flamboyant without having a beer in your hand.

Finally, there’s a very practical reason – where can you find that obscure queer book you want so badly? One of my favorite novelists is the elderly yet amazingly out-of-the-closet Brit, Francis King. Indigo bookstores may serve a great chicken pesto sandwich, but they’ve only heard of the other King – Stephen.

Why don’t fags and dykes support queer spaces anymore? Whether they’re pretending that they wouldn’t be caught dead in The Bijou porn theatre when it’s being harassed by police, or standing behind City Councillor Kyle Rae when he cuts down bushes in our queer parks, upscale queers are intoning, “I hate Church St.”

We’re smack in the middle of the post-gay, anti-gay era. The new fags insist that the College St bar Ciao Edie is trés chic and wouldn’t be caught dead in a gay bookstore. They’ve got the cash to order their porn by mail.

Their lesbian equivalents are the Rosie O’Donnell types – you can catch them on motorcycles squiring delicious babes who are merely their “best friends.”

Well, I’ve got news for all these folks. Glad Day protects your freedom to be a post-queer faggot or dyke. Its presence forces bigger bookstores to carry queer titles, and its political crusades protect the freedom of speech you take for granted.

I’m still outspokenly pro-gay liberation (remember that phrase?), honest enough to admit I’m horny as hell, and brave enough to admit I shop at Glad Day.

Call me old fashioned, but it’s true.

Tickets for the Sat, Sep 22 fundraiser, with Gilbert and lawyer Frank Addario as speakers, are available for $50 at the store (598A Yonge St); call 416-961-4161 for more information.