Gay’s The Word

In 1984, when I was 16, I came to London with a group of LGBT teens for a conference. It was my first time in London alone and the city was a beacon to me for a liberated life. Here I met Gay’s the Word. Inside this small bookshop, I felt liberated and among friends, with row upon row of books that affirmed me, antidotes to the bilious poison of negative imagery I had grown up on. There were badges and comics, and shelves of books by the Gay Mens’ Press. Notice boards fluttered with sheets of paper advertising events and flats and jobs, a confetti of possibility and opportunity. Here I could buy balm for my wounds, grist to my fantasy, hope and vision. And here I was free from the oppressive claustrophobia and judgement of the club and pub scene. I began returning to  GTW when I moved back to England, happy to reconnect with this small shop that means so much. I have evolved from an emotionally wounded teenager to a more rounded and angry middle-aged man, with experiences and memories that fill a life time. Yet somehow, when I am here, in this peaceful oasis at 66 Marchmont Street, I am young again. Some of the books I bought in my teens now inhabit the second-hand shelf, and new titles reflect just what a span of history I have lived, with guides to marriage replacing terrifying guides to homophobic law. Yet somethings have not changed and that is source of joy and comfort. So next time you find yourself at Kings Cross, cross the road, head a few hundred feet south and pop in to this wonderful shop, on the fringe of Russell Square. Buy a book, or a card, support your local bookshop. This work is available as a signed print from and costs £7. The shop’s details are here


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