The Gay Sweater project is using the power of art to provoke debate and generate thoughtful discussion surrounding the commonplace use of homophobic language.
The sweater in question is knit from human hair donated by LGBTQ people, and bills itself as the “world’s first and only gay object.” The brainchild of the Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity (CCGSD), the garment was inspired by the ubiquity of the problematic phrase “that’s so gay.”
Jeremy Dias, CCGSD founder and director, says the idea came out of the team’s frustration with hearing the expression echoed in the many schools across Canada where they present workshops.
“‘That’s so gay’ implies that being gay is derogatory or something negative,” says Dias. “You want to turn around and say something. You want to speak out, but you don’t because that’s the reality of the world we live in.”
Its unconscious use by many is a symptom of a bigger problem, he adds. “It speaks to a reality that we still discriminate against LGBTQ people.”
After “ruminating” about the problem, the group started brainstorming. “A bunch of us were like, ‘What if a sweater was so gay? What if was tangibly, actually gay?’ Then we wondered, ‘How can we create something like that? What would that look like?’”
Eventually, the group landed on the idea of using human hair donated from members of the LGTBQ community. The sweater made its debut last week during Fashion Week, and the response has been largely positive. Dias says he was struck by one boy’s recent request to tie a lock of his own hair to the garment. “How cool is that?”
The Gay Sweater will be absorbed into the group’s workshops aimed at kids and teens in schools across Canada. “We decided to make sure that it goes out to as many events and activities as we can possibly bring it to,” says Dias. “We want people to touch it and to wear it.”