Aggressively queer,” I wrote in my notes on the blank page labeled Glasgow. But that’s a note I scribbled more out of joy rather than journalistic necessity.
After checking into the gorgeous Dakota Delux Hotel, I spent the last few days exploring the more traditional sides of Scottish culture but also getting to know the radical, artsy, queer side of Glasgow.
I followed up a beautiful historical tour with my high tea/high-femme fantasy and spent the afternoon in search of the Glasgow story.
I ended up by meeting some delightful QTPOC students at Glasgow School of Art and shared a meal and a chat about radical politics. Of course, the conversation turned to the movement for trans and gender nonbinary POC inclusion and visibility in Glasgow. With their recommendations and the help of my new friend, I spent the day touring art galleries, bookshops, independently owned makers studios and theaters in search of all the reasons Glasgow is so unique.
Sure, I did the traditional thing [yes, I ate the haggis – no it’s not for me] But I also got to see the queer world in Glasgow in a way that is rarely possible as an outsider.
For example, I went to a new queer bookstore called Category Is Books to talk shop with the owners and ended up learning about Scotland’s sperm shortage. Yup – that’s a thing – who knew? I offered to send a few American jack offs their way but they didn’t think that joke was as funny as I do.
Unfortunately due to a series of policy changes fewer people are donating sperm and making it more difficult for queer couples to conceive. So this tiny bookstore took it upon themselves to start a queer baby-making meetup group to match couples with donors from within the queer community. How beautiful is that? But that’s one of the things I find so fascinating about traveling as a queer person. Regardless of what country you’re in those are the things we’ve always done as a culture. We come together in times of hardship and celebrate our community through our support for our queer siblings. Beyond nationality, language, culture, or religion – that is the way of queers around the world.
So while – yes. I saw some sheep on the train ride and a kilt in a storefront window and finally heard a bagpiper on my way back to my hotel last night. Those aren’t the memories I’ll hold in my mind. I’ll remember Jenna’s empathic eyes as we connected over pints and discussed the seemingly impossible dichotomy of being both a traveler of solitude and a person who craves connection. I’ll remember the faces of three trans students using their hearts to speak their truth and the chipped polish of an artists’ hands as she helped me stick my new pin to my denim jacket.
Because it’s true – the people really do make Glasgow.
8 Things To Do in Glasgow Scotland
Enjoy High Tea at Mackintosh at the Willow Tea Rooms
In the UK afternoon tea is part of the culture. The Willow Tea Rooms are a must-see for folks interested in experiencing high tea in all its glory. I love love love a great high tea experience. There’s just something about taking a time out to enjoy a chat and a scone. I’m from New York where we spend so much time rushing around that we don’t appreciate the art and style of slowing down. Tea at Mackintosh at the Willow will force you to pause and live in the moment.
Check Out the Nightlife at Katie’s Bar
Katie’s is Glasgow’s sole lesbian bar. In an era where lesbian bars are rapidly closing their doors, it’s so important to support the few that are still operating. Stop in for a drink or enjoy a night out at Katie’s. They offer a range of events and theme parties for Glasgow’s queer women. On any given night you’ll find karaoke, cabaret, drag shows galore.
Explore Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery
One of the coolest things about Scotland is that most of the museums are free to visit. The Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery was one of my favorites in Glasgow. It holds numerous collections covering fine arts, dinosaur skeletons, minerals, antiques and curiosities from around the world.
Photograph Your Way Through the City Center Mural Trail
Glasgow has the perfect street art walking tour set up with the City Center Mural Trail. The trail will lead you past some of Glasgow’s most beautiful murals by local artists, such as Smug or Rogue One. Many of the murals represent typical aspects of local culture, such as the modern portrait of the city saint St. Mungo or the latest Billy Connolly murals by St Enoch. You can download a map of the trail here.
Browse the Stacks at Category Is Books
Category Is Books is owned by a married couple, Fiona and Charlotte Duffy-Scott. Together they stock the shelves with LGBT affirming titles and fun kitschy LGBT themed merchandise. During the off hours, the bookstore operates as an informal community center providing support groups and social and emotional support activities for the community.
Try Local Scottish Favorite, Haggis
Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish that Google describes as “a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver, and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and cooked while traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach though now often in an artificial casing instead.” It’s a Scottish delicacy. I tried it. It’s very flavorful and you can really taste the spices.
Shop for One of a Kind Vintage Finds
We stopped into several vintage shops during our visit to Glasgow. We ended up at Mr. Ben’s Retro Clothing which can be only described as a store filled with the extraordinary and the extra ordinary. They have everything from vintage military regalia to thousands of pairs of vintage Levi jeans. Regardless if you’re in the market for something super fancy or just trying to get your everyday clothing haul on – Glasgow’s vintage shops will have something for you.