RIP social space of indie bookstores – Toronto's Pages closes

photo by Matthew Kim

I just got back from Toronto. It was my first summer visit there since the summers when I came out 19 and 20. It’s been a long time.  A lot has changed. There are lots of new museums and buildings and lofts but as I strolled down Queen Street West, where I used to hang out back when it was far grittier, I noticed that Pages bookstore is just about to close.

Pages was a beautiful indie bookstore with lots of large coffee table books in the window and a mix of academic, indie and arty stuff. There were more magazines than I’d ever seen and more gay, lesbian and generally sexy material than I’d ever seen outside of the porn section of the family corner store where I sometimes worked. There was nothing about those magazines that was for me.

It was a clean, well lit place for cruising. I was terrified coming out back then. It was 1986 and there was nothing generally acceptable about being attracted romantically or physically to someone of the same-sex.

There was one lesbian bar and a feminist book store that carried ear cuffs, women symbol earrings and cassette tapes full of songs about spilling up and over like a waterfall. I tried all of these. I admit it. But how else were you supposed to meet women or more specifically womyn? How would you know thy were gay?  How did you even know what it was that you felt inside? Until our feelings are mirrored, we aren’t sure it’s ok to have them.

I didn’t like to drink and I wasn’t going to the Michigan Womyns Music Festival (one woman I met gushed about how people there braided their armpit hair). Pages was much more my speed. Dorky and thinky, it was a place where stylish, chunky glasses and footwear prevailed. It had gay stuff but it wasn’t only gay. It was maybe the first space I was even in that had room to be gay and not gay together. I could try it out without having to give myself entirely over to it. At Pages I could stand somewhere and be excited about ideas and cute women.

Richard Nash is right that books are social objects, social glue (as are all artists and our work…especially performances..more on that to come). But bookstores are social spaces. And Pages was a great one. I never did meet anyone in its aisles. But I could have. Just being in there meant a lot to me. There was some place that felt right. Some place I belonged.

Goodbye Pages. Many thanks.

Posted via email from heathergold’s posterous