Sep 282011
 

The Diversity Project blankets the community

By Susan Stewart

The Diversity Project—a hand-knitted and crocheted blanket made from individual squares, celebrating the Lexington Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered (LGBT) community—is the brainchild of U.K. undergraduate and Gaines Fellow, Catherine Brereton.  As eight-inch squares are knitted by contributors over the next few months, the blanket will eventually contain up to 144 pieces of original fabric art.  Brereton’s goals are to prominently display the blanket somewhere in Lexington and to auction the project to fund a one-time scholarship for an LGBT student.

Square made by "A Perfect Stranger from Greater Chicagoland." Hidden butterly design signifies transgender identities.

Within weeks, The Diversity Project has garnered interest nationally and internationally, as well as from the Lexingtonians for whom it was originally conceived.  “My home is in Lexington, but my community extends far beyond,” says Brereton, who emigrated to the U.S. from Great Britain in 2008.  “Friends and family aren’t limited by geography.  The blanket represents the far-reaching nature of our communities.”

A project like this is long overdue, and the interest it has generated far beyond its central Kentucky birthplace speaks to an unfulfilled need for a certain kind of expression in the queer community.  Producing a hand-made blanket seems hardly radical in Kentucky (where handicraft and fabric art are staples of rural and Appalachian heritage), but for a community so seemingly outside homespun norms, such an object is inherently political.

The blanket evokes a set of values we might call traditional or old-fashioned—dare we say, family values.  It is not uncommon for LGBT people to be denied the acceptance of their family or the reassurance of their places within heritage and tradition.  Undeniably, those living in places like rural Kentucky suffer greater social disenfranchisement than those in cities.  Allies in these smaller communities find it hard to reach out to their LGBT family and neighbors because of the same pressures. In response, The Diversity Project claims warmth, family, belonging, and acceptance as human rights for LGBT people—rejecting heartless and tepid pleas for mere “tolerance.”  It offers space to extend and celebrate those values for everyone, including allies and family.

Knitted by Rebecca W. in honor of Hannah Landers.

According to Brereton, contributions have included knitted and crocheted squares dedicated to a friend or family member. “But any square is welcome, whether dedicated to someone special or not,” says Brereton. Non-knitters have also donated yarn, small financial gifts, and personal stories to the project’s web site.  There are plans to embroider squares with quotes from community members.

The first project “knit-in” will take place at the Gaines Center for the Humanities in the Commonwealth House on Maxwell Street on Thursday, October 6, from 6:30-9:00 P.M.  Some knitting instruction will be available for first-time or rusty knitters.  Attendees need to bring only a pair of needles and yarn.

The project’s web site, http://ukdiversityproject.wordpress.com, contains information about how to donate time, material, money, or a square to the blanket, as well as information about upcoming events.

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