STYLE
24/03/2015 17:32 GMT | Updated 30/03/2015 16:59 BST

#TheGaySweater Knitted From 'Gay Hair' Challenges Homophobic Language

'That jumper is so gay,' is a comment that one designer is hoping to hear emanating from the front row of Toronto Fashion Week.

The garment in question was knitted from the donated hair of more than 1,000 LGBT people by the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD).

"The idea for the sweater was born from a desire to educate and encourage everyone to use 'gay' the correct way," says Jeremy Dias, director of the CCGSD, regarding their decision to to create 'the world’s first and only 100% gay object'.

"We want the conversation that surrounds the gay sweater to inspire those who are using 'gay' in a detrimental way to both realise the negative impact their words and actions are having and change their behavior."

gay jumper

"When I hear someone say 'that's so gay', I want to scream: I'M GAY, but you don't. You suck that pain, that oppression, that emotion up, and you just try to pretend it doesn't bother you," Dias added to HuffPost UK Lifestyle.

"The truth is that the existence of 'that's so gay' as an expression is an indication that homophobia and transphobia is still a problem. The reality that we are so desensitised to the expression and the oppression is truly heart breaking. And maybe you don't mean it like that, but when you are me, and you hear it everyday, day after day, it cuts like a series of a thousand paper cuts that slowly slice at your soul."

One of the women who was involved in knitting the jumper admits that it is every bit as itchy and uncomfortable to wear as you would imagine, but rather than a drawback, she believes this is another way the cardi embodies its anti-homophobic message.

"This is just such an extreme manifestation of the word that I think people will be forced to realise how silly they sound when they say it," says Amelia.

"The revulsion is overpowered by people’s curiosity. They might be grossed out, they might take a step back, but they don’t leave."

SEE MORE

Homophobic Bullying In Schools: Are Teachers Wearing T-Shirts Saying 'Gay' The Answer?

LGBT Bullying: 'That's So Gay!'

According to Stonewall 99% of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people hear phrases such as ‘that’s so gay’ in school, and 84% of them are distressed when the word is used as an insult.

Elly Barnes, CEO and founder of Educate & Celebrate, an organisation dedicated to making schools LGBT+Friendly told HuffPost UK Lifestyle that she's hopeful that CCGSD's Gay Sweater will help to change that.

"This is a unique and innovative approach to challenging an everyday issue that has a negative impact on many young people and teachers alike and I applaud the aims of CCGSD's campaign," says Barnes.

"I address the inappropriate use of the word 'gay' on a daily basis when delivering our Educate & Celebrate programme in schools in the UK, it is essential to ensure that our young people understand the correct use of the word as a starting point to an LGBT+Friendly school.

"We can say 'Tom Daley is gay' as this is a fact. But your pen is not gay when it runs out.

"This understanding should go hand in hand with increasing the visibility of LGBT people and history at school and ensuring lessons throughout the curriculum are LGBT+Inclusive to completely eradicate the use of discriminatory language."

Human rights activist and HuffPost blogger Philip Christopher Baldwin adds:

"I think #TheGaySweater is a beautiful and innovative way of raising awareness about an important issue. Challenging the pejorative use of the word 'gay' is another step in the right direction for LGBT equality. Phrases such as 'that's so gay' can undermine confidence and LGBT teens, in particular, will benefit from this initiative.

"LGBT bullying in schools continues to be a problem and I'm pleased the CCGSD is looking to change attitudes. Eradicating the use of such language progresses us further to a society which is inclusive and accepting.

"Fun and fabulous, #TheGaySweater is a celebration of LGBT identity and will hopefully do much to challenge stigma."

However, not everyone is convinced that #TheGaySweater is the best way to challenge homophobic language.

"While I wholeheartedly support any campaign to highlight and halt the disturbing new trend of using the word 'gay' as an insult, I'm not sure how this shirt achieves it," says HuffPost UK blogger The Guyliner.

"Perhaps it is another attempt to subvert stereotypes and dispel the myth that gay people – men particularly – are massively fashion-conscious and looks-obsessed. I also wouldn't say it was the 'world's first 100% gay object' – what about double butt plugs?

"One area where it resonates is that it is very ugly and has rather yucky origins – much like homophobia and the modern reinterpretation of 'gay' as an insult."

22 Movies That Changed How We Felt About Ourselves As LGBT People