San Francisco’s legendary gay bookshop to close

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The last of the four shops owned by A Different Light Bookstores – and the last exclusively LGBT bookstore in San Francisco – is set to close by the end of this month.

The chain, which opened its first shop in Los Angeles in 1979, established the San Francisco branch on Castro Street in the heart of the city’s gay district in 1986.

It was first managed by Terry Anderson, at the time the partner of novelist Armistead Maupin. In 1987, the job was taken over by Richard Labonte, who went on to manage the entire chain for more than a decade.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the shop was a vibrant cultural centre, with frequent in-store events and exhibitions, a vast stock of new and backlist books, self-published books, zines, activist t-shirts and other materials. It also served as a meeting location and message center for a number of ad-hoc radical queer groups in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

A huge number of events were held at the San Francisco shop up until 2000, with author readings and other in-store presentations taking place twice a week or more. Those who appeared included Dorothy Allison, Diamanda Galas, Justin Bond and Larry Kramer.

Staff at Gay’s the Word, London’s only remaining independent LGBT bookshop said:

“Sadly we are now witnessing the world’s last independent gay bookshops – pioneers of gay enlightenment and equality – closing one by one.

“For staff at Gay’s the Word in London, the news about A Different Light feels like the loss of a sibling. We send our love and respect to the employees of this fine bookshop.

“Gay bookshops are the mind, heart and soul of the LGBTQ community – institutions that nurture all that is special and unique about us, but that we need to nurture back in return.”