A 19-year-old San Diego artist, who went viral on Twitter after criticizing people for buying big-brand products during Pride Month, says he's "flabbergasted" by the attention he's received for shining a light on local, LGBT-owned businesses.
Israel Oast, who recently graduated from high school, makes his handmade crochet pieces in his bedroom and sells them online.
"Instead of supporting a big brand that claims to be inclusive by throwing a rainbow on something, support a small LGBT owned brand run by a 19YO from his bedroom based in San Diego, California with a Rt or a Like," Oast tweeted this week.
The tweet now has more than 32,000 retweets and 77,000 likes.
Oast said he thinks the tweet resonated with so many is because not everyone is straight-passing - or, acting as if you are heterosexual in order to be perceived as straight in passing.
"I think my tweet spoke to so many individuals because not everybody is straight-passing. Because I am not straight-passing," Oast said. "People can tell by the way I talk or walk, and it's caused people to treat me differently."
Oast said he first started crocheting in high school while working a part-time job and attending classes. While he was working, he said, people treated him differently because he was gay.
When he first started crocheting, Oast said, his mother didn't support him. She worried people would make fun of him for crocheting or make fun of him because he was gay.
"When I tell them what I do, they don't take me seriously. They think I'm just a kid doing God knows what, and then I show them my work and they believe in me. People don't take me seriously until I show them," he explained.
Along the way, he has encountered people who are upset with his work or don't take him seriously.
"It's taken awhile for me to be really prideful in what I do because a lot of people, when I tell them I crochet, they say things like 'don't girls do that,'" Oast said.
Oast has been building his business since high school, and he's been making pieces with rainbow flags and trans flags as well. He's also learning more about different gender expressions.
"If I'm one person and not a multi-billion dollar brand and I can be this inclusive, I think big brands can do it as well. A lot of people feel the same way," Oast said.
The support he has received changes everything for him, Oast said.
"It's nice that I can have a positive movement just by putting something out there that I love," Oast said.
Ever since his viral tweet, he's gotten an influx of orders. Some of those customers want their orders before upcoming Pride festivals, so he's working quickly to get them their products soon.
For more information on his business and products, click here.