Don't Label Me: LGBTQIA+ Ally

Our Middle School Library in Laurel, Maryland has been a loud and proud Safe Space and Ally for ALL of our  LGBTQIA and Neurodivergent students for years. We have purchased every well reviewed, requested, intriguing, and middle school approved fiction and non-fiction book on these topics. I daresay we have one of the largest collections around! We have Safe Space signs around, a rainbow narwhal (pictured above) and groupings of books on display all the time.

I have also blogged about our support of our diverse communities.

Genre Label by @heymissjenna

BUT... I have strong opinions about putting a Genre label on these books. I am really cognizant that some of my Middle Schoolers are curious or questioning to learn more about but aren't ready to out themselves. To their peers and to their parents. This is yet another reason I'm against Genrefication. I know, among some of my other Future Ready Librarians this is a controversial topic.  But to group all these books in one spot means that kids might be VERY HESITANT to gravitate and browse that area of the Library. 

(Photo left from follow @heymissjenna link to her excellent and related blog post below)

I remember back in the 80's in college, a friend of mine asked me to make a pilgrimage to the iconic Lambda Rising bookstore in Baltimore because they didn't want to go in there alone. We even drove around the block to "case the join!" before parking and going inside. So I can just imagine how a teen who has questions about their gender identity in Middle School may not be ready to hang out with those "labeled" books in my School Library. 

I Don't Like Labels

Some books also span between many genres. What if you have a book that has a queer main character but there's also other elements to the story? Like a mystery? Or suspense? How many genre stickers are you going to put on there? Where are you going to shelve it? 

I'm going to shelve it by author and genre label it Mystery. Because also, what does it matter if the main character who is solving a mystery is gay either - except to show kiddos that people of ANY orientation or gender identity can do do ANYTHING, right? Not narrowed down to a label.

Instead, I'm going to just use the TEEN label. Pretty much covers everything. Except that Mystery book.

(Photo right from follow @heymissjenna link to her excellent and related blog post below) 

OR... from a School Librarian who I admire and who I am privileged enough to call a friend 

Danielle DuPuis says:  

"Best case scenario? having the funds for two copies. Label one, don't label the other." Give the reader the choice. She's a High School Librarian and does label all her books. In a recent text conversation: "We DO label them. And they are the most circulated books we own. Kids love it because they can find them easier. And they might not want to come and ask where the queer books are located."

Don't Censor My Collection

This is going to sound perhaps cowardly or wimpy or sneaky or super whip-smart (Muuwwaa) But I also don't always want to put a big spotlight on the fact that my Middle School has a LOT of divergent and controversial books to the parents who might be apt to"challenge it" or fight to get it removed. Which is happening a lot more lately? That's a topic for another post -- but why the heck are we going backwards with FReedom to read? [SMH]

Please note: This post is about Middle Grades only. Not elementary and not High School. YMMV.

What do do instead? 

Create: displays, book lists, bookmarks, Instagram posts, posters, etc. 

Show that you're an Ally - Be a Safe Space!  BE Out and Proud that you're there for ALL your community and that you will provide all the information and resources that they need.

Further and more comprehensive reading:

The Sticky Situation of LGBT+ Book Labels 

Follow her on Twitter: @heymissjenna

Last thoughts:

I know:

This topic won't please everyone. 

My choice NOT to use genre labels won't please everyone.

My opinions AGAINST generefication won't please everyone.

My choice to have these books in our collection won't please everyone.

BUT.... you can't please everyone! 

I also reserve the right to change my mind in the future. 

What do you think? 

Please leave your real thoughts in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!

But not about how to buy cryptocurrency or how to get more followers ...SPAMMERS BEWARE -- I will NEVER publish your comments. 

Do you like our Safe Space Ally Sign? Grab a copy here!

Proudly supporting and providing back copies of:


To all the REAL commenters out there and not SPAMMERS: You are so appreciated and I love hearing from you!  Sorry for the delay in replying - as you know, it's been a challenging couple of years and I had 487 SPAM comments to go through to find only 13 REAL ones! Daunting. But your comment was worth finding and publishing. If you ever have any questions or if I can help in any way, please don't hesitate to contact me directly at Gwyneth Anne at G to the mail dot com. Best wishes, ~Gwyneth


  1. I label my LGBTQ+ books because I have had students ask me how to find them. But instead of putting a huge rainbow sticker on them, I did it very discretely. I got see through colored star stickers and I use purple stars on any books with LGBTQ+ characters or issues in fiction. I also marked fairy dale retellings, dystopians and books that deal with mental health issues in the same way. That way, I can help kids find what they want without the book screaming about it. Only people who frequently browse the library will know what that little purple star means. I just put up a little sign that has all the stickers and what they mean. I am in a high school, so I don’t get the same kind of foot traffic that you probably get. But that is how I have solved that issue. It helps kids find OR avoid the issue if that’s what they want.

    1. Hi Tammy! Thank you so much for the comment & great ideas. I was thinking of something like that, too! Or even just a small colored dot. I have tiny colored dots on my high-interest easy read books for the Special Ed teachers to find -- that way they can easily recommend them without being too obvious. Best, ~Gwyneth

    2. I love this idea! It seems like the perfect solution to navigate making it possible to find the resources kids are looking for while honouring their discretion in wanting to do so. There have been so many students at my school coming forward with questions about identity (of all kinds), and we've been updating our collection with so many great books. I love the idea of making it possible for students to see themselves reflected in characters from the books they're reading and seeing their experience in others.

  2. At the request of some of my middle school students, I have started labeling LGBTQ+ books but not putting them in the same section. I do have separate sections for mysteries, sports fiction, and horror, but I am not real comfortable with labeling. I also inherited a large Native American section (I teach in Montana, which mandates the teaching of American Indian Education for All. It is handy for finding titles, but also feels a bit like creating ghettos or, ironically, reservations. Oddly but not surprisingly, some kids have started hiding the LGBTQ+ books. Maybe a strategy suggested by parents? In any case, I am going to steal your bookmark and poster ideas and probably Tammy Cordeiro's little purple star idea as well - it's brilliant!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Vic! I think we're all doing what we can to get the books our kiddos need into their hands. I like the star idea, too! Best, ~Gwyneth

  3. So timely. I am a MS librarian and just labeled my new LGBTQ+ books with a genre sticker (but I do not genre-fy my collection into sections). I just label the books. I lost sleep last night after having the first day of circulation of the new books which were in sections - just for this first perusal (you can see pics of this on my twitter feed). I am torn between the immature students who had to be addressed about their behaviors and the students who were genuinely and immediately drawn to see the new books where they felt represented. And ... I am still torn. I will continue to promote my safe zone. My students do seem to feel comfortable approaching me & asking for help locating the books. All good ideas and suggestions, welcome, too!

    1. Thank you Patty for your comment! They do mean the world to me! (even if I'm a little tardy answering them) That's great! Find your comfort zone for your kiddos, yourself, & your community - but I think to err on the side of FREEDOM and SAFE ZONES is key! It's all good!

  4. Hi, there! New follower and future teacher librarian from Canada here! I really enjoyed reading about your views on genrefication. If we know how damaging and marginalizing labels can be for humans, wouldn't the same logic follow for books (and the people who sign them out)? I look forward to reading more on this topic including your other posts and the ones from Jenna Ingham that you referred to.
    And I just love your display on banned books, especially the ripped away wrap up jobs. How intriguing!! -Denni

    1. Hey Denni! LOVE my Canadian neighbors to the north! I've keynoted and spoken to Library & Tech groups several times at conferences -- and always find kindred spirits when I visit. I truly appreciate your comment and am thrilled my blog has helped you! Feel free to contact me any time via email if I can help in any way- gwynethanne AT the G Mail

  5. Hello Gwyneth! Thank you for sharing creative ways to showcase your LGBTQIA books without the possibility of students feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed. If students are entering into a specific section of the library or signing out a book with a brightly coloured rainbow label, it could discourage them from exploring books they are interested in. I appreciate your thoughts on how to navigate this in the library and have a few takeaways for my classroom library. I also found the comment around adding an inconspicuous sticker to the binding of these books to be a fair way to navigate this while still labelling these books. Jumping back to the beginning of your post, are you able to share a few book recommendations to diversify a classroom library?

    1. Hey there! Thanks for your comment. I wish you had left your name or contact information but maybe you'll get notified I answered this (finally! LOL) Take a copy of our list of our top 35 LGBTQIA+ Fiction books on a Google Doc:

  6. Hi!

    I've seen collaboration between the librarian and GSA clubs members with if/how they would like books to be labelled! Like you said, not all of the students will agree on what they would like in terms of stickers/labels, but allowing them to have a voice helps them to feel empowered.

    1. Hey Anon! I agree with you 100%! If you have a GSA club or group - have a mindful conversation with them to see what they think about labeling. See? Even the word labeling gives me bad feelings. I have never liked or wanted to be labeled!


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