Some people go to bars, but the nerds go to bookshops.
The first spot I visited as a baby gay was Glad Day Bookshop, and that was when it was a tiny store tucked up a massive flight of stairs on Yonge Street. The man behind the desk paid little attention to the tiny beige homosexual staring in awe at the shelves lined with LGBT classics and images of queer love and sex. But seeing all of that in a physical space changed something for me. After spending so much of my youth squirrelling away anything that stood counter to what was deemed acceptable in suburban Etobicoke, I saw so much of myself displayed openly. Proudly. These items were as deserving of visibility and space as any other book, or poster, or magazine. It made me feel real. And I think sometimes we forget just how impactful that visibility is to someone who has lived in the closet, or for someone who is used to seeing themselves reflected in the dominant culture.
I hope I never take for granted how wonderful Glad Day is, and how important the Naked Heart Festival is to Toronto’s LGBTQ community. And after the closure of so many queer businesses, and the ever-present threat of condos, Glad Day’s move to Church Street fills a massive void. It provides a safe space, and one of visibility on a strip that is dominated by bars and burger joints. It promotes literacy and offers programming to many underrepresented groups under the queer umbrella. It is a fantastic coffee shop, and a restaurant, and an event space, and a bookshop. It is so many things to so many people, and encourages community building at a time when more and more people have moved away from physical spaces in favour of digital ones. And we need to inhabit physical spaces. We need to be seen. That is integral to the survival of our community.
So much love to Glad Day and to another successful Naked Heart Festival. And thank you for continuing to support my work. I was able to read some of my new material from the upcoming Dark Horse anthology The Secret Loves of Geeks, attend great workshops and events, and connect with some exciting queer artists.
The Reel Asian International Film Festival is doing equally important work by offering up a unique showcase and platform to contemporary Asian cinema and work of the Asian Diaspora (for twenty years running), and I feel very honoured to be speaking on a panel about web series development and funding this Tuesday. The landscape of web content has changed significantly since Gay Nerds premiered in 2012, so I suspect I’ll be picking up some hot tips myself. And that could come in handy as I begin development on a new series.