Exploring the history of Glad Day, the world’s oldest surviving LGBTQ+ bookshop

For 53 years, Glad Day Bookshop has served as an iconic queer space in Canada’s largest city.

An image of Glad Day Bookshop, and LGBTQ bookstore with a random coloured banner hanging outside the venue
Image: Glad Day Bookshop via Facebook

In 1970, as the Gay Liberation Movement was only just beginning, Jearld Moldenhauer founded a new community space in Toronto. It was called Glad Day Bookshop, and it stands to this day as the longest-surviving queer bookstore in the world.

After graduating from Cornell, Moldenhauer began working as a research assistant at the University of Toronto, but was fired after he created a gay student union at the university. Determined not to give up, he returned to Toronto eight months later to form Glad Day.

The bookshop soon became an important space in Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community, and would serve as a centre for organising the growing movement for LGBTQ+ equality and for queer folks to get to know each other in a safe environment.

In 1985, when the Canadian government tried to censor queer literature, Glad Day was hit hard by seizures of books and other materials sold by the shop. Moldenhauer petitioned the courts over the removal of one such book, The Joy of Gay Sex, and won.

This certainly wouldn’t be the last bit of homophobic pushback on the shop, and it was these attacks by the government that caused Moldenhauer to sell his beloved Toronto bookshop in 1991, while continuing to operate a second Glad Day location he had opened in Boston.



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By the early 2010s, as attitudes toward queerness and same-sex relationships slowly became more accepted within popular culture, Glad Day’s patrons banned together to raise funds to save the store from closure, and later to move the shop to a new space that was five times as large as the previous one.

Starting off as just a small bookshop, Glad Day has since grown into an event space, now hosting drag brunch, watch parties of queer shows, board game nights, and dance nights. The shop even hosted actor and trans icon Elliot Page as he stopped in Toronto on a tour supporting the launch of his memoir Pageboy.

Glad Day Bookshop serves as a testament to the strength and resilience of the queer community, and how important it is to have accessible LGBTQ+ spaces no matter where you live. In the face of adversity, stories like Glad Day’s stand as a glimmer of hope beneath the darkness.

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