The phrase “That’s so gay” has largely been deemed socially unacceptable, whether it’s used with negative intent or not. But now there’s an exception.
Introducing #TheGaySweater, the only item that its creators say is OK to be described as “so gay,” because it’s made entirely with human hair donated by members of the LGBT community.
The Gay Sweater Project, spearheaded by the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, aims to spread the message that words like “gay” shouldn’t be used in any derogatory ways. The initiative is part of the centre's mission to combat bullying and discrimination in schools and youth communities.
“I would love to grow up in a world where ‘That’s so gay’ wasn’t a thing,” said CCGSD director Jeremy Dias in a YouTube video unveiling the creation.
The word “gay” has had a long and tumultuous history. It came into the English language some time in the 15th century with the meaning of “brightly coloured” or “happy,” according to Katherine Barber, former editor-in-chief of Canadian Oxford Dictionary.
It then morphed into a description of sexuality, before the derogatory usage of the word began in the 1970s.
To stop the usage, people need to realize that it's offensive, Barber said in a video released by the CCGSD.
“It’s a message that has to be repeated over and over again,” she said.
Touted by its creators as "the world's first and only gay object," the sweater features different shades of brown, blonde and black hair. It's then completed with rainbow-coloured buttons (also made with human hair, of course).
For the craft community, the Gay Sweater Project is both an exciting opportunity to learn to work with a unique type of material and a messy challenge.
The knitters first spin the hair into a single strand, and then use two singles to make a two-ply yarn for strength and evenness. The yarn is then winded into a ball for the final knitting process.
“Hands down this is like the strangest project I’ve worked on,” said Brenna Macdonald, one of the knitters, in a behind-the-scene video of the campaign. “All of the little bits of hair … were sticking to my skin. It made me look like an ape man.”
“This is just such an extreme manifestation of the word that I think people will be forced to realize how silly they sound when they say it,” said Amelia Lyon, another knitter.
And for those who are wondering how the sweater feels?
It’s been described both as “unbelievably itchy” and “warm, but not too warm.”