September 2021 will mark the 40th year of Gay's The Word hosting our weekly Lesbian Discussion Group meetings. We truly wanted to celebrate this anniversary and put out an appeal for women who have attended the group over the years to get in touch.
This space of our website has since been dedicated to your stories as part of the LDG Oral History Project. If you do have a story about the group to share you can still get in touch with us.
Did the group help you meet other women or even a partner? Was it a place of support and understanding when you needed it? What has it been like over the years? How has it changed or affected you?
We would love to hear from you about this! Please feel free to get in touch via either the contact form on our website or e-mail. A selection of contributions will be posted here on the website.
Please note, that by submitting content you automatically grant us the right to publish it either on this website, or in other print-media.
I was just reading about how the lesbian scene has diminished since the 1990s and it caused me to investigate if the lesbian discussion group at Gays the Word bookshop is still running. How WONDERFUL that it is!
I first visited the discussion group in 1996 when writing my Masters thesis called 'A Right to Bi: Breaking the Taboo on Female Sexuality'. It was great to be able to chat to other women and then go out in small groups to access the lesbian scene together. I also began a relationship with someone else attending the group.
In 2001, one night I spontaneously decided to visit the group again. This was a most fortuitous night and it changed the rest of my life. I arranged to go out with a couple of women I met at the group, but then one of them couldn't make it and so Maya and I ended up having our first date together. We spent the day and evening on the Southbank enjoying each other's company so much that all public transport ceased and I had to take a taxi a very long way home.
We had a civil partnership ten years ago that was later converted to marriage, when this became legal. We have been through some tough times together, but it has all been worth it for the glorious relationship that we have.
We will always be thankful for meeting at the lesbian discussion group. We have gone from being sprightly young things to loving growing older together.
Thank you LDC and happy anniversary!
Big Love from Nikki & Maya X
After living in a womens' refuge in central London for 12 months, having fled a violent same sex relationship, I had no friends and did not know any lesbian clubs or social gathering places.
My life in London began in the wee small bookshop, I can't say its all been pleasant as in life you dont get on with everyone, but even now from time to time I pop back in, for friendly banter or a full on debate. I met my long standing friend of 7 years here.
I now know London pretty well and am hoping to get married to my partner at the end of this year...now marriage is possible at last! I have a very large place in my heart for this group as it is a valuable first point for any lesbian young or old, also a place to re-connect after a relationship break-up. It's an essential part of lesbian life in London.
I moved to London after attending the Lesbian Discussion Group in 2007. At the time, I was living in a place with a smallish lesbian scene that revolved around drinking-based activities. During a visit to London, the LDS was my first experience of a non-party lesbian environment and I loved it!
The discussion topic that Wednesday was lesbian funerals and how to ensure you have rights if your partner passes away. This was before we had civil partnerships or equal marriage. While the topic was rather dark, it inspired me by the community and culture that exist here.
Today, I still live in London and attend the LDS occasionally, thanks for organising it!
There was a time after Uni when in between jobs when I lost regular contact with other lesbians. I had been diagnosed with an incurable degenerative condition and was struggling to find funding for further study. I got myself in a bit of a rut.
Quite peculiarly I began to try and fit into a straight world and look more feminine. Strange that, as I had always been out and proud. Now that I have been embraced by the discussion group I’m happy to be tomboyish again. It is so important to have lesbian friends and role models and a space to call our own, especially in London.
I found a wonderful acceptance at the group; full of strong, friendly loving women. I formed friendships that I treasure and found the strength to move home and create a better life for myself. I don’t know where I would be today without the lesbian discussion group. Long may it last.
I distinctly remember the first time I walked by the bookshop. I used to take long walks along Tavistock Place from my campus on the Strand to the British Library, where I isolated myself and read tirelessly for hours on end. It was an exceptionally cool April afternoon when I decided to take a detour and not go down the straight road, but perhaps acquaint myself with places nearby. It was a peculiar moment when I noticed the shop. I was just walking by and I saw the words Gay’s the Word written with golden letters above a little shop that oozed character. I stepped in and was warmly welcomed by a middle-aged man who seemed to have been immersed in reading Christopher and his Kind. I spent what seemed to be a small infinity in the shop. I went from one shelf to another and flicked over books about various topics from great gay people in history to graphic books on different gay and lesbian sex positions. I felt at home! I scanned one book after another and finally decided to stick to my budget and went to pay for the one book I had decided to buy. I didn’t want to leave the shop but the magical words on a little piece of paper on the wall behind the nice cashier forced me into a wide smile:
Gay’s the Word Lesbian and Gay Bookshop
Lesbian Discussion Group
We meet every Wednesday from 8:00 to 9:00pm.
During the next few days, I frantically went through all my notes on Butler, Spivak and bell hooks, trying to make sure that I was ready for my first meeting with the discussion group on the coming Wednesday. I reviewed the articles I had read on the three waves of feminism, performativity, heteronormativity, etc. Little did I know, however, that all of this research was completely unnecessary!
The discussion started with simple introductions and then simpler questions. Members started talking about the challenges they faced as lesbians, personal stories of coming out and the stigma that surrounded them. I really did not need theories or scholarly approaches to be a member of this group. I could simply pour my heart out and be listened to non-judgmentally. I could be out here. I could talk without fear of rejection or humiliation. As a half-Catholic half-Muslim lesbian who had lived all her life closeted, I came out in this group. I felt comfortable sharing things I never dared to share with anyone at home. I started to vent my feelings and receive the sincere care and support of the group. I found two of my very best friends in the group whose gentle kindness and genuine care warms my heart every time I think of them. I met wonderful women from all walks of life from whom I learned, with whom I happily conversed and without whom I would have missed out on a lot of things that have changed my life. My deep fondness, respect and gratitude goes to the bookshop and the discussion group, because of whom life in London became spectacular.
When I first moved to the city I knew nobody, let alone any queer women. Through the group I've met so many fantastic friends. Now I go for two equally important reasons; to take part in the discussion, and then to spend time in the pub with everyone afterwards!
It is fantastic that the discussion group is still going after all these years. I started it back in the early 80's when I worked at GTW. The shop was pretty male dominated back then, and I wanted to encourage women to get involved.
It soon became clear that the group was much needed, as it was somewhere for women to talk about particular topics ( non monogamy and coming out were always popular!) and socialize.
Many women didn't have the confidence to go to bars and clubs on their own, and ended up feeling isolated. The group was a great place for them to meet other lesbians and mix with like minded women.
In the very early days, our custom was rejected by many of the local pubs, they didn't want a bunch of dykes frightening their customers. Eventually, a friendly landlord took over the Marquis Cornwallis just over the road, and that became our local.
Congratulations to those of you who have kept it going all this time. It's an amazing resource.
It was a wonderfully welcoming place for my new partner and me. We met some amazing women and Amanda , who ran the discussion group and worked in the bookshop was someone we all looked up to. There weren't that many lesbian venues in those days so this was a great place to socialise as well as having really interesting discussions. We all used to go to the pub over the road afterwards and have a laugh. It was a great place to find our feet and gain confidence in the newly discovered lesbian world.