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by Aidan Cartwright

Glad Day BookshopImage via Google

Glad Day Bookshop holds the title as the world’s oldest gay bookstore since Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop in New York closed in 2009. Founded by Jearld Moldenhauer in 1970, the store is still around today at 598A Yonge Street in Toronto, Ontario. I lived above Glad Day from 2009 to 2011.

Glad Day Bookshop

Like other bookstores of every color and stripe, less people browse the racks of Glad Day these days than during the store’s banner years in the 1980s and 1990s. Part of this decline can be explained by the fact that Glad Day is a second floor walk-up. Unless you approach the store by walking south on Yonge Street, there’s a good chance you’ll miss the eye level display case filled with queer books, erotica, photo books, and porn.

Once inside, the visitor must climb a flight of stairs to the second floor, and then take a right. This brings you inside the store proper (there is also a third floor reading space that used to be my apartment, but that is a story for another time). Once you’re inside, you realize that Glad Day is not a large space –- it’s perhaps the size of a school classroom cut in half lengthwise.

What catches your eye first is a marble counter top about 6 feet across. It’s the first thing you see upon entering because it’s elevated. Behind this counter top, all the photography books –- Bel Ami, Bruce Weber, Tom of Finland, and more — are found.

On the far left side of the space is what we referred to as, “The Trough.” It’s a large wood case filled with old skin magazines organized alphabetically. A typical Friday night at the store would be spent eating sushi and having a glass of wine with my friend John Scythes, Glad Day’s then owner, while we waited for the clock to strike 9:00.

John would often growl about “The Trough” because anyone who showed up at Glad Day from 8:00 PM onward on Fridays would usually only be interested in the magazines, all under $10, that were found in this bin of delight. He felt that making such a small amount of money didn’t justify keeping the store open so late.

Glad Day Bookshop

I remember how delighted some customers were by what they found there. There was a magazine for everyone and everyone for a magazine, it seemed. One of the best selling items was Handjobs Magazine. Its focus on Daddy/Boy and Younger/Older appealed to many customers and we were happy to sell it. I would sometimes kill time in the washroom jerking off to issues of Handjobs (as well as anything else that caught my eye). I could perch my reading material of choice on top of the toilet and proceed to whack off in earnest.

Glad Day BookshopGlad Day Bookshop

Glad Day Bookshop

One of the more memorable Glad Day Customers was a guy I’ll call “Storm Man.” About 5 feet tall with a large belly, glasses with thick frames, an endearingly small nose and cheerful personality, he would always announce himself by saying, “A stormmmm is a-coming!” even if there was no storm in sight. He often wore a rainbow-colored handkerchief fastened with a woggle. I think this is what cemented him in my memory. This, and he would often sidle up to John for a feel. I asked John once if this made him uncomfortable. What I remember of his response was, “Well, he always spends money here.”

Another memorable customer was a former Falcon model who was shopping for a photo book he’s featured in. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to recall either the book’s title or its date of publication, so we weren’t able to help him find what he was looking for. Still, it was a fun 20 minutes of trying different ways to find the book in Glad Day’s database while working to jog his memory for a title.

Some customers were what I’d call true connoisseurs. I became one of them myself, so I could appreciate when a gentleman would arrive and plunk his credit card down on the counter along with two copies of The Big Penis Book. When it was published, this Taschen title was the store’s biggest seller for months. We also carried Greg Gorman’s work and Bruce Weber’s, of course. I saved up my pennies for months to buy the only copy we had of The Chop Suey Club, Weber’s book documenting the boy-to-man transition of an all-American athlete.

Glad Day Bookshop

So what did it all mean? Different customers, different tastes, all coming to the little queer bookstore-that-could to buy pornography (movies, wonderful fiction, and non-fiction books are also sold at Glad Day).

Everyone who bought porn from the store, including myself, was interested in the material as much for the story it tells as they were for the sexual aid it provides. Because porn is still an important way that we as gay men tell our own stories.

In porn, it’s our turn to control the narrative. It’s the place where changing in the locker room opens the door to pleasure, the place where having morning tea with your best friend turns into passionate lovemaking. At its heart, porn is queer stories about men enjoying social, emotional, and sexual bonds with one another –- these stories belong to us.

In many ways gay porn represents freedom from social control, the right to love the boys and men we love openly, and a place to showcase gay aesthetics (Bel Ami’s neon couches and blankets, anyone?) Gay porn should be cherished for all these reasons and more.

Aidan Cartwright is an author, blogger, researcher, and word junkie with an enthusiasm for art, a well crafted punchline and working out. Having lived above a gay bookstore, queer literature and gay porn inevitably cross his mind from time to time. You can follow him on Twitter here: @CartwrightAidan


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