Anyone who claims that Park Slope still has a dominant gay population needn’t look any further than the Park Slope Barnes & Noble. At one time, the retailer had a fullly dedicated section for gay and lesbian literature located in a prominent area inside the store. These days, however, customers looking for LGBTQIA books need to travel downstairs and into a back corner where the selection is placed on a few small shelves.
Just like the neighborhood population, the gays are harder and harder to find.
When I was a younger, the gay and lesbian section of any bookstore was my total salvation. I would always hit it up while looking for books that might teach me something about the gay experience. This was all before I had come out, so in many ways, those books were my first glance into the road ahead. I can't begin to say how much they helped me through my journey.
But kids these days (said in my best "grandpa voice") have so many more options. The Internet. Television. Movies. Music. Magazines. Gay people and the gay lifestyle are highly visible now. You don’t need to go to one small section of the bookstore anymore. You can simply open your eyes to the whole world.
With that increase in awareness though, it is somewhat surprising that the Park Slope Barnes & Noble have so drastically changed their layout. I’ll admit it’s been about a year since I’ve stepped foot in that location, so I assume the change happened a long time ago. But to take a section that was located prominently at the bottom of the escalator – and marked with a big "GAY & LESBIAN" sign – and had about five shelves or so devoted to books by LGBTQIA authors or about LGBTQIA characters/lifestyle, and to reduce it to three shelves buried in the back? Three shelves under the SOCIAL SCIENCES and LAW signs, even? That’s pretty discouraging.
Especially in a day in age where teen bullying is leading to a high suicide rate of LGBTQIA youth. And where gay marriage is such a hot button issue. You’d think Barnes & Noble would want to build a prominent section to reach out to those causes.
I get it though – it’s obviously a business decision. The LGBTQIA audience is much smaller than those buying cookbooks. Barnes & Noble has to look out for their bottom line. And seeing how they’ve expanded the children’s book section to include a children’s toys section, I’m guessing their bottom line is making all of their decisions over there.
Of course, I'd still like it if Park Slope's Barnes & Noble separated out their Gay & Lesbian section. It's super important that we all have exposure to these titles, regardless of our sexual orientation. Here's hoping they'll find a way to make a change.