A Beautiful Response to Homophobia: The Pansy Project

The next time you see a flower growing by the curb, consider this: Paul Harfleet has planted 10,000 flowers in different cities around the world, but not because he's just into random urban beautification. Each bloom marks a homophobic attack.

As Ben Schiller writes for FastCo.Exist:

A few years ago, Paul Harfleet was walking down a street in Manchester, England, when someone shouted "fucking faggot" at him. Then, a little later, it happened again. And again—three times in the same day.

Normally, as many gay men do, he might have tried to forget about it. But he decided he wanted "to mark the experience in some way, as an artist." So, he went back to the spots, and planted pansy flowers in the nearest available piece of soil. "Roadside memorials were becoming popular at the time, and I liked the way they made you think about what had happened at that location," he says. "Planting pansies was more gentle and low-key than an actual memorial. I liked the idea of queering the street, in some way."

Yes, all of the flowers are pansies, since "pansy" is a disparaging word for a weak, effeminate or homosexual man. While Harfleet's first flower marked a verbal attack, some others he's planted are memorials for people physically assaulted — beaten up or murdered. The visual contrast of a delicate, vibrant flower striving to grow and flourish despite being surrounded by harsh concrete is incredibly moving. Reminiscent of the flower-in-the-gun-barrel approach during the Vietnam War, the project is a poignant way to transform a horrible moment into a beautiful one.

A Single Flower To Mark Each Spot Of Homophobic Abuse [FastCoExist]

@ThePansyProject [Twitter]

The Pansy Project [Official Site]