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The ‘gay’ sweater is a project of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity.
The ‘gay’ sweater is a project of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity.

‘Gay’ sweater aims to raise awareness of effects of homophobic slurs Add to ...

This sweater is 100 per cent “gay.”

A bit brown, blond, black and red, with colourful buttons up the front, the slouchy sweater was knitted using the hair of more than 100 LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or questioning) people, and it’s being called the world’s first “gay” object.

The reason for its existence is to spread awareness of the negative effects of homophobic and transphobic language.

“ ‘That’s so gay’ – homophobic and transphobic language – is so woven into our society … we began thinking, ‘How can we create an object that actually is gay,’ ” said Jeremy Dias, the director of the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD), which is behind the project.

“If people are going to say it, why don’t we say it properly?”

According to NoHomophobes.com, a website that monitors the use of homophobic slurs on Twitter, the term “so gay” has been tweeted more than nine million times since July, 2012.

“It sucks when you’re walking down the street and someone says, ‘That sweater is so gay,’ and you just want to scream, ‘No it’s not, I am, I am so gay,’ ” Mr. Dias said. “Why is it so gay? And why is it okay to say it’s so gay?”

The idea for the sweater sprouted about a year and a half ago, Mr. Dias said. It has been kept a secret until Tuesday, when the CCGSD plans to unveil the sweater at David Pecaut Square in Toronto during Toronto Fashion Week.

“We are constantly saying that we are born gay, we are born who we are, and part of your identity, your biology, is the pieces of you. And hair is a piece of you,” Mr. Dias said.

“[The sweater] has quite literally woven together the stories and experiences of hundreds of [LGBTQ people]. Our discrimination, our joys, our sadness.”

In high school, a student spit in Mr. Dias’s hair, shooting a homophobic slur at him in the process. “That strand of hair is woven into this sweater,” he said.

David Rayside, a political science professor and a member of the University of Toronto’s Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, said the use of homophobic and transphobic slurs is still a prominent issue in schools.

“It’s still the case that the word ‘gay’ is flung around in school environments as a negative, and that contributes to an overall climate that is not very positive around sexual difference,” he said.

But Prof. Rayside is unsure that The Gay Sweater project will be effective in starting conversations about the use homophobic and transphobic slurs.

“A good activist idea is often one that immediately makes people connect dots, or does so with very little prompting. Famous campaigns will use symbolism often that people can immediately interpret. I’m not sure that it’s true in this case,” he said.

For more information on The Gay Sweater project, visit CCGSD’s website.

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