Queer Issue 2024

The Books of Love

Charlie’s Queer Books Is a Welcoming Space for Seattle’s LGBTQ+ Lit Nerds

The Future of HIV Treatment Is Injectable

Promising Drugs Could Expand Treatment–If We Get Out of Our Own Way

What’s Next for Denny Blaine?

Maybe New Rules, but Certainly Fewer Thorns

Dave Upthegrove Wants to Save the Trees

...And Become Washington State’s First Gay Executive While He’s at It

Queer Issue 2024 Pickup Locations

Looking for a Copy of This Year’s Queer Issue? You Can Find One at the Following Locations.

Can Seattle Drag Afford to Stay Weird?

Rising Costs, and Fewer Beginner-Friendly Venues, Are Sanitizing Seattle’s Drag Scene

50 Years of Queers

Gay Betrayals! Rich Prudes! Queer Futures! And an Absolutely Stuffed Pride Calendar!

The Gays Who Slayed and the Gays Who Betrayed

Not Every Queer Politician Is an “Ally”

The Reality Behind the Story I Told The Stranger

I Said I Was Detrans, but Really I Was Struggling

Out of This World

Forming the SassyBlack Universe

The Futures of Seattle’s Gayborhood

An Architect, an Urban Planner, a Documentarian, an Academic, and a Business Owner Imagine What Capitol Hill Will Look Like in 50 Years

When Charlie’s Queer Books opened its bright pink doors for the first time in November 2023, the Fremont shop, which exclusively sells books by and about LGBTQ+ people, almost instantly became a staple in Seattle’s queer community and beyond. The shop, founded by Charlie Hunts, is just one of less than a dozen exclusively LGBTQ+ bookstores currently operating in the US.

Hunts first came up with the idea for an all-LGBTQ+ bookstore 12 years ago after a devastating injury left him bedridden for a year and unable to return to his previous job with Harley-Davidson. He found solace in literature. “I fell in love with books and decided to return to school,” he said. “I got my degree in English and later got my MBA.”

Hunts started working in print and marketing and began collecting every LGBTQ+ book that crossed his desk. As a trans man himself, he was especially interested in books that centered on trans characters. “I was building my collection amid all these anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ bills, as well as the combo of all the book bans,” he recalled. “I felt like this was something I could contribute, so I decided to test the waters.”

The first iteration of Charlie’s Queer Books hit the streets of Seattle last summer as a mobile store, a flashy, disco-tiled book cart that Hunts pushed around town. Hunts took the cart to Pride in the Park, PrideFest, and even wheeled it down the streets in the Seattle Pride Parade. Seattle’s many book-obsessed queers could not get enough. “There was such an outpouring of support and enthusiasm behind it that we decided to open up a brick-and-mortar in Fremont,” Hunts said.

“There aren’t many third places for queer people that aren’t around alcohol,” Hunts added. “This bookstore can serve as that third place if you just want a space to hang out during the day if you don’t drink, if you are under 21, or if you just like going to sleep early.”

In the running for Cutest Bookshop in Seattle. Brooke Fitts

Hunts’s shop is a brightly colored bibliophile’s paradise. His wife, Madeline Burchard, documents the kaleidoscope of queer books on their official Instagram account: @charliesqueerbooks. The exterior looks like a playful children’s drawing of a house with whimsical colors and mismatched window trim. The interior boasts a vibrant palette of pinks and blues, lots of natural light, and happy banners that say things like “You belong here” and “Being gay is so fun” hanging on the walls. Books are assorted by genre and age demographic and categorized with little flags so readers know exactly what identities are featured—it feels welcoming and magical. There is truly something for everyone, from the cozy children’s reading corner to the wall of LGBTQ+ stickers to the gift section, complete with totes, T-shirts, socks, and accessories.

Charlie’s also hosts events including cookie decorating, shitty craft nights, bisexual comedy showcases, drag performances, and release parties with visiting authors. Local author Ray Stoeve participated in their first in-person book launch at Charlie’s in May. After walking into the store, they were amazed by the queer utopia tucked inside the little pink shop.

“Charlie, Madeline, and their booksellers created such a welcoming space for everyone to come together and celebrate The Summer Love Strategy,” Stoeve said. “Supporting queer spaces is important to me, so I knew as soon as Charlie’s found a physical location that I wanted to have my launch there. Being able to launch my book in a queer-centered space made me feel seen and connected to our community.”

Pride Month will be Charlie’s busiest month yet. Every day in June brings a new LGBTQ+ event and Hunts is most excited about the Queer Book Fair on June 15. “We’re trying to help people chase that Scholastic Book Fair high,” he said with a smile. The event will include local vendors, authors, workshops, and all the fun trinkets kids could only get at a 2000’s Scholastic Book Fair.

Still, Hunts is also keenly aware of the danger that comes with increasing the store’s visibility. He knew there was a risk in opening a queer bookstore, especially in a year where national book bans, particularly those that center on LGBTQ+ topics, are becoming more common. In April, Axios reported that book bans have increased 65% compared to 2023 and, of the more than 4,200 books targeted, the majority “continue to be those centered on LGBTQ experiences and people of color.” Due to safety concerns, Hunts invested in specially coated glass windows and high-tech security cameras. He was also intentional about the events he scheduled during the shop’s early days.

“That was on purpose—to let ourselves get our first six months under us before we started doing things like drag story time or putting ourselves out there, just so we could get our footing first,” Hunts explained. “Even though we’re in a state like Washington, not all of Washington is Seattle. Even in Seattle, we’ve certainly had our issues. When we were looking at different locations, we were told explicitly not to be in Green Lake by people who live there.”

As he prepares for the store’s first drag queen story hour with delicious local legend Glam Chowder, Hunts is looking into the best ways to ensure safety for everyone involved. Recently, he spoke with the organizers of Drag Queen Story Hour, a 501c3 nonprofit that organizes family-friendly events around the world. “[They] said that this year, in their official events alone, they have seen one bomb threat a week at bookstores,” said Hunts. “Their threats are all the same. They’re in a template. They changed the bookstore and its owner. It’s emailed directly to the cops. We don’t even get a say in whether we respond or not. It’s very organized.”

Hunts says he’s not afraid. He finds security in his community. “I’m a trans man. I was scared for a long time because I only got stories of Matthew Shepard or Brandon Teena, who were killed for their queerness,” he said. “Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t get to see stories that were about queer joy, queer love, or other ways of being a trans person in the world.” Seeing people like him get to be the hero in their story has given Hunts strength, and with each book, he’s passing that strength on to the rest of the community. 

“We’ve had people brought to tears in our kids’ nook because they wish they had those stories when they were kids, or they find them just so healing,” he said. “People thank us every day for existing. That’s bittersweet. It’s the reason we exist. It’s the reason we do the work. It also shows what we’re up against in this moment.”

For Hunts, the risk is worth the reward. “What folks have to deal with is so much more than what we have to deal with at the store,” he said. “My concern is only to keep our customers safe. Beyond that, [the pushback] just makes me want to do it even more. We have to be here.”

Visit Charlie’s Queer Books at 465 N 26th St in Fremont Wed–Sat 11 am–7 pm and Sun 11 am–5 pm. See their full list of pride events at charliesqueerbooks.com.