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The amazing true story of the "Little Queer Library" and the Girl Scout behind it

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Photo courtesy of Amelia Hare
Photo courtesy of Amelia Hare

Girl Scouts announce LGBTQ+ affinity camp, cookie sales underway

When Amelia Hare, a fourth-generation Girl Scout, sought the organization's highest honor, the Gold Award, it was no surprise to the women in her family.

However, she had no idea just how many twists and turns lay ahead over the next four years, including a global pandemic, remote learning, and business closures.

Amelia at work — Photos courtesy of Amelia Hare  

"I had a bunch of places in my community near my school where I was hoping to install these little Queer libraries that I had planned to build myself," she said. "I finished one completely and I started on the second, which was very large. Then, the pandemic happened.

"I had to change gears in a way that I was not planning to, because all the businesses... were closed down indefinitely or were losing their building space... That left me with maybe a couple months over the summer. I decided to... do the website instead. It was a contentious decision for me, because I spent so much time on the project already... Changing my mind and... the way the project would turn out in the end was a big deal to me."

Hare spent "a lot of time" every week just going through the books she had, making sure her recommended reading lists were just right, and downloading the images she needed. She credits her mentor and project manager, Carol Fisher, for keeping her on task.

"I have a website that I built myself that is focused on Queer literature. It's categorized by many... different identifiers: from age to identity, like sexual identity, gender identity, and romantic identity, as well as genres that I think are pretty central," she explained.

"It came from the idea that I was spending a lot of time in libraries looking for books that I would resonate with a bit more. My book gaydar is very strong. A lot of the time I could find them, but sometimes I just wish it was easier to pinpoint... I'm not very shy about picking out what I want, but I know a lot of people who aren't."

The website has helped to connect her with a lot of like-minded people, and she hopes to build a community through her connected Discord server and Instagram pages. She hopes to create a sense of connection that might even save lives.

"Some people don't have environments at home that are affirming or safe for them. So, having a book to escape into can be really important," Hare said. "I think, definitely, having books on hand that you can see yourself represented in and supported in are really important, especially since so many people can't go to school and they can't see their friends."

Affinity camps
Hare is now 18, and just graduated from the Northwest School in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood last June. She is Black, identifies as pansexual, and uses she, they, and zie/hir pronouns.

The Girl Scouts, she said, gave her the confidence to be out and proud about her multiple identities, and she was excited to hear that the Girl Scouts of Western Washington's LGBTQ+ affinity camp would return.

"Honestly, the Girl Scouts are so Queer-positive. It took a little while for me to notice it, but it is definitely true," she said. "I do know a lot of Scouts who are with our organization, but who don't necessarily align with the 'girl' part. It's great because it's always been a pretty safe space for people like that."

Likewise, while it may have come too late for her to participate, she said that an affinity family camp for Black/African American Scouts and their families sounds like "a lot of fun."

"I have cousins who are also into Girl Scouting. I know that they probably would be super into that and just take the whole family up and have a nice time," said Hare. "I'm sure that if they're Black Girl Scouts out there who want to go camping with a bunch of other Black Girl Scouts, they're gonna come out for it, because that's not something you see every day."

Julie Wendell — Photo courtesy of GSWW  

Julie Wendell, vice president of program at the Girl Scouts of Western Washington, told the SGN that she was "thrilled" to offer the two "exclusive resident camp opportunities" this summer, one for LGBTQIA+ youth and another for Black families. "Offering affinity camp programs such as these are one way for our organization to create a safe space for people to build strength and pride based on shared characteristics," she said.

Leadership — and cookies
Hare added that being a Girl Scout has helped her to "develop some pretty superior leadership skills," alongside a love of nature and the outdoors."

And, since Girl Scout cookie season was underway, she was quick to add that you can't go wrong with Thin Mints, Do-si-does, and Tagalongs.

"My customer service definitely developed because I sold cookies. Also, social networking... and developing a clientele base," she said. "Mostly, it taught me consistency. When you need something or when you have a commitment, you commit to it!"

Regarding the new Adventureful cookie that the Girl Scouts rolled out this year, which is a brownie-inspired cookie with caramel-flavored crème and a hint of sea salt, she provided her honest review. "I expected a little bit more chew than I was given," said Hare. But "I would buy a box of those and have some. They seemed really yummy.

Also, "if you put [Girl Scout cookies] in the freezer, they're going to be there waiting for you when you're ready for them in mid-summer."

Photo courtesy of Amelia Hare  

Hare said she plans to enroll in Lewis and Clark College in the fall, but has been enjoying her gap year while saving for college. In fact, she just got back from a trip to Baja California in Mexico, where she spent a couple of weeks participating in ecotourism. She swam with whale sharks, petted some gray whales, and got a good view of humpback whales breaching the sea.

"Right now, I'm just kind of enjoying not being in school for once," she said.

To see Hare's Gold Award project, "The Little Queer Library," visit https://penguonlover512.wixsite.com/littlequeerlibraries/.