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Knitting helps LGBTQ+ teens with coping skills

img_0731_crop1 By Liza Draper

In 2017, TLC Family Resource Center’s Rural Outright program helped launch a Gay, Straight, Trans Alliance (GSTA) at Claremont Middle School (CMS), which was named Rainbow Confetti by the students. It is a free, student-run club that provides a safe place for students who identify differently and their allies to get together, plan activities, socialize, support each other, and talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

Rainbow Confetti meetings are held weekly on Mondays after school in the group advisor’s classroom. The members have observed national LGBTQ days, traveled to attend PRIDE events in Concord and Portsmouth, participated in a full day youth summit at Colby-Sawyer College, and celebrated LGBTQ History month. Most recently, we all learned to knit.

TLC supplied needles and yarn, then in December, Kara Toms (a student assistance provider at both CMS and Stevens High School) helped everyone “cast on.” Since then students have been working on rainbow scarves to sell at our first Rural PRIDE event planned for June.

Why knitting?

Think back. Would you want to repeat your years in middle school? Academic and/or athletic overload, bullying, cliques, and dating drama among other things can make this stage of adolescence one of the toughest. Now imagine the impact on young teens with an additional stressor—identifying differently.

Data from the national School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN) biennially indicate:

  • Most lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students have experienced harassment and discrimination at school.
  • LGBTQ students in middle school were more likely than students in high school to hear homophobic language and negative remarks about gender expression in school.
  • Students in middle school reported slightly higher frequencies of victimization based on sexual orientation and gender expression than students in high school.
  • Hostile school climates negatively affect LGBTQ students’ educational outcomes and mental health.
  • LGBTQ students who experienced high levels of anti-LGBTQ victimization and discrimination had lower GPAs, lower self-esteem and higher levels of depression.

img_0731_crop2Studies have shown that knitting can be therapeutic, and that the benefits may actually exceed those associated with engaging in other handicrafts. Knitting is easy to learn, portable, calming and confidence building. One nurse practitioner in California saw that it helped reduce burnout in nurses who felt overwhelmed by their job, according Anna Medaris Miller in an article for US News and World Report.

“The craft’s two-handed, repetitive movements paired with its tactile, visual and emotional stimulation are among the aspects that make it especially effective, pros say. Knitting also offers a rare sense of control, in part because knitters can easily undo any mistakes and use that same yarn to try again. And, unlike many other crafts that require a stretch of dedicated attention, knitting can easily be picked up and put down again just a few minutes later,”said Miller.

The students are enjoying the chance to create something useful and feeling a bit less anxious and stronger with every row.

Do you use knitting for therapeutic purposes? How does it help you? Where can people learn to knit locally? Share your thoughts in the comments section!