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On March 20th, 2013, Andrea Free and I (Allison Tannehill) decided to expand on a project that I had semi-started about eight months earlier: the Rainbow Bracelet Project.
I had this idea to connect my online friends by sending them a rainbow bracelet I made, and then to put their pictures in a photo album on my personal Facebook page. Life quickly got in the way, and the project got put on hold. Thanks to Andrea, we were able to bring the project back, expand on it, and turn it into something to be proud of.
I have this weird obsession with superheroes. I’m genuinely upset that I don’t have superpowers because all I want to do is save the world from all of the social injustices that exist. Since I can’t be a superhero, I do what I can to make a difference as just one human being. Rainbow Bracelet Project is a way to combat hatred and help people become educated about LGBT issues. The main purpose of the project is to get people talking about equality. Plus, it’s nice to have a feeling of connectedness. Many people are fortunate to live in places where it’s okay to be different, but there are many who are not, and they feel alone. After explaining the project to someone I met online, she responded with “I think the RBP is a really cool idea. Nothing worse than feeling like you’re the only weirdo in the world.” It’s true. I’m from a small town, one that has recently gotten a fairly bad reputation for being anti-equality. I was in denial about my sexuality until I was 20, but I would have felt much better had I had something that made me feel connected to other people like me. Andrea is also from a small town, and she also knows what it’s like to feel like an outcast. We both know how important it is to feel accepted and loved simply for being yourself.
We are seeing the RBP connection grow as time goes on. We’ve sent bracelets to 16 different countries and to places in the United States where equality and being different are not welcomed with open arms (44 states to date). We are also making an effort to recognize people who are doing things to help fight the good fight. There is a section on the website where you can nominate someone to win a free bracelet for being outspoken and brave in the fight for LGBT equality. For us, these people are the heroes in the fight for equality. It takes guts to stand up to the opposition, and we admire all of the people these days who aren’t afraid to use their voices to help educate people.
Now that we’ve mailed out over hundreds and hundreds of bracelets to LGBT people and allies, and many in the Portland, Oregon area, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled, just in case I run into someone wearing one. The day that actually happens I’ll probably have a heart attack. In all reality, though, the project is still relatively small. We both feel that the project has the potential to reach a much larger audience. Until then, we’ll just keep trying to save the world, one rainbow bracelet at a time.
Additional information about the project:
As of 3/2/2014, $949 has been donated from the Rainbow Bracelet Project to LGBT organizations (other than $50 that was donated to the Boston Marathon Victims Fund).
Each person who buys a bracelet or keychain, gets a special photo to be posted on the Rainbow Bracelet Project website and social media accounts.
The Rainbow Bracelet Project partners with businesses and individuals that support equality: http://rainbowbraceletproject.com/partners/
You can also reach Danae Jones on Facebook.
In July 2013, seven brave young adults are headed to World Youth Day in Brazil to advocate that LGBT and queer people be celebrated as whole persons within the Catholic Church and within society. At a time where the church has repeatedly villainized and demonized LGBTQ people as “disordered” and “threats to civilization,” these pilgrims will counter this harmful rhetoric with the message that WE ARE ALL EQUALLY BLESSED!
Equally Blessed is a progressive Catholic coalition dedicated to “educating and inspiring Catholics to take action on behalf of LGBT people, their families and friends.” The coalition is made up of four organizations: Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry. The goal of this pilgrimage is to raise awareness about issues of gender and sexuality in the lives of Catholics while also challenging harmful teachings and pastoral practices that dehumanize rather than celebrate the gifts LGBTQ people are to the church and to the world.
By embracing the spirit of prophetic non-violence, the seven of us will witness to our fellow WYD participants by being a visible presence throughout the week of World Youth Day evens: t-shirts, kites, asking questions at forums, sashes, and rainbow bracelets. We each come from different backgrounds: college students, teachers, religious professionals, and social workers. We represent different identities: bisexual, lesbian, ally, transgender, differently abled, Latino, and African American. Like the bracelets from the Rainbow Bracelet Project, each of us is a different color, but we are united by our commitment that transformation is possible within ourselves, our communities, and the Church that we have come to love and see as home.
As the leader of the pilgrimage, I have tried to connect with different organizations in order to cultivate a support network—we know that when we arrive in Rio that we are not alone but are supported, energized, and held up by diverse communities who are praying for us, thinking of us, spreading the word, and whose voices we bring to conversations in Rio. Through this outreach I was able to connect with the Rainbow Bracelet Project, finding inspiration in the project’s simple yet powerful effort of creating conversation and change through rainbow thread. The goal of the project and the goal of our pilgrimage resonate with each other; both strive to help others claim and reclaim their voices within religious circles in order to challenge our faith communities to radically embrace inclusivity and justice.
Part of the culture and tradition of World Youth Day is the sharing of knickknacks from participant’s home countries and communities. In this spirit, we would like to share rainbow knickknacks such as pins, stickers, rosaries, and bracelets as a way of sparking conversation, planting seeds that can blossom when pilgrims return to their home communities, and as a way of queerifying a World Youth Day tradition. I was very excited to connect with RBP and their willingness to share bracelets with us; our wearing them sends a visual message of equality while also reminding us that we are not alone in the struggle for justice. Our hope is also to share the bracelets with other pilgrims so that they too can be visuals for justice in their home communities…the rippling effect the bracelets can have is exciting while also being unknown. A bracelet we share can make it to a young person in part of the world where being identified as LGBT or queer is dangerous—just as the bracelet reminds us as pilgrims that we are not alone, the bracelet will serve as a colorful threaded beacon of hope that they too are not alone.
REFLECTIONS FOR OTHER PILGRIMS ON WHY PILGRIMAGE?
Jennifer Guterman, 2013 EB pilgrim, shares…
I feel called because I am a Catholic, an ally, and a human being. As a Catholic, I want to make a life-changing pilgrimage that embraces true equality and justice. As an ally, I want to witness against teachings that exclude so many and demean us all. As a human being, I want to honor our interconnectedness and participate in a more loving and complete vision of church.
Megan Graves, 2013 EB pilgrim, shares…
The theme of WYD this year is “Go and make disciples of all nations” from the Gospel of Matthew. This theme indicates that it is the responsibility of the Church to welcome all people. In all honestly, I feel that the Catholic Church has done a poor job of welcoming those from the LGBTQ community. I would like to be a witness for the LGBTQ community because my Catholic faith challenges me to stand up and advocate for those who are turned away and belittled by society, even if I must stand up to my own faith who has taught me these very values. I am not afraid to stand up against injustice, and I want to work with others who are willing to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. As a bisexual Catholic, I feel as if the Church has taught me that I am not quite right. Well, I know who I am, and I know that I am loved by God, and no human institution can tell me otherwise.
Click the link to order bracelets from the Rainbow Bracelet Project.