"I wish this was here when I was growing up!”
This is a sentence that Category is Books owners, Charlotte and Fi Duffy-Scott hear often. They run an LGBTQ+ bookshop in the Govanhill area of Glasgow, stocking everything from zines and comics to queer history, from LGBTQ+ classics to inclusive children books. Category is Books is full of knowledge, humour, adventures and romance - all with representation at its core.
Category is Books was founded by wife and wife, Charlotte and Fi Duffy-Scott due to their desire to do something else while also working together, preferably for a “queer reason”.
Dedicated to researching queer culture and history but having no space to do it while, also looking for a way to be more involved with their local LGBTQ+ community; Category is Books was born, opening its doors in September 2018.
Growing up under Section 28, the legislation which stated that local authorities "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality.”, Charlotte and Fi both struggled with the absence of queer history and stories in their education and became desperate to discover them and, in turn, themselves. Speaking on this Charlotte said:
“When we did realise that it was there, and we were learning about it, we came to it later in life. Obviously, Section 28 is changed now and there's a lot more equality going on in teaching in schools, but we wanted to make sure that this was here for people because a lot of people say they wish this was here when they were growing up or things like that. It’s time it exists.”
In terms of the shops stock, this is something that evolves often, growing with the community. Dictated by a mix of conversations with customers and simply by what Charlotte and Fi are researching or enjoying themselves. All books in the shop either have been written by a member of the LGBTQ+ community or have LGBTQ+ main characters. Charlotte added:
“We didn't want it to just be a lesbian or a gay bookshop. We want to try and make sure that everyone in the LGBTQIA+ community could see themselves on the shelves and sort of as equally as we could. And that's not always perfect. We're not there yet with that at all. There’s still stuff to find and there are still areas to cover.”
Of course, LGBTQ+ history can be very dark due to the decades of oppression which continues to this day. On trying to find a balance in their content Fi said:
“I think we try and balance seriousness of queer history with also getting having fun because sometimes it can get very weighted and very heavy and of course this is such a huge part of everybody's history but also trying to include as many fantasy, sci-fi, comic books and things that let you escape, where the characters are still queer and the representation is still very much that people can see themselves and find themselves in that but it is people going and having an adventure or you know things that you can lose yourself in without being frustrated that it's completely hetero-normative.“
Other than books, Category is Books also stocks magazines, merchandise such as badges and prints, and DVDs.
Category is Books also acts as a vital community hub, with a range of events held there weekly. Events such as craft and poetry workshops, support groups, tarot evenings and even a gender inclusive pop-up barber shop for those who are trans or outside the gender binary and may struggle with visiting traditional barbers.
Category is books is the first of its kind in Scotland, second in the UK after Gay’s the Word in London. Gay’s the word, founded in 1979, has been at the centre of UK LGBTQ+ and socialist activism, described by the author, Armistead Maupin as “the fountainhead of queer literature in Britain.”
One of the main ethos of Category is Books is accessibility, this was vital to Charlotte and Fi when founding Category is Books, especially with Charlotte themselves being Autistic.
The shop seems to be designed to be like a cosy reading nook with a warm lamp glowing in the corner illuminating the shelves upon shelves of books. The Duffy-Scott’s dog curled up on a chair under a blanket, and positive affirmations, quotes and art across the walls - straight out of my own dream library space. Everything has been thought out to be accessible to all. From making sure there is plenty of rest spaces, to measuring the space between the furniture for wheelchair access. On Wednesdays, the store has an Autism-friendly day with lights dimmed and only white noise playing the background. Fi said:
“It felt really obvious to do that. It is a fundamental part of what we're doing in the shop. And then through that, I think it means that we have a space that people feel comfortable in which is what we intended to do. We wanted to open a shop for everybody, we had to kind of take into account everybody.”
Category is books has cemented a lot, playing a huge part in the affirmations of the Glasgow LGBTQ+ community. Category is Books is proof that there is a market for LGBTQ+ stories and representation while also showing the need for LGBTQ+ centric spaces.
Thanks to Charlotte and Fi at Category is Books (https://www.categoryisbooks.com/)
Photos by Bethany Livingstone (Instagram: @glossyimage)
Sabrina Sigler (b.1999 Miami, Florida) is a Scottish-American aspiring journalist and documentary maker based in Glasgow, Scotland. Sabrina is also the Editor-in-Chief of Disobedient Magazine.
firstname.lastname@example.org / Instagram: @sabrina.sig / Twitter @badgalsabi