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a Pride flag

MS and disability in the LGBTQ+ community

Jess Mansel

As someone who is queer, mixed-race and has MS, it feels important to find myself reflected somewhere. In the lead up to marching in London Pride I took some time to reflect on what it means to me and for our wider community.

For me Pride means belonging, when we don’t see ourselves represented in our community we feel excluded.

With that in mind I recently spent a bit of time googling famous LGBT+ people with MS and learned about an incredible person called Barbara Jordan. She was a black, gay woman with MS and one of the leaders of the civil rights movement! More about her later.

Does it matter if people with MS are LGBTQI+ too?

It shouldn't, but it does. Recent research from Stonewall found LGBT+ people faced widespread discrimination when accessing Healthcare. One in seven LGBT+ people avoid seeking help due to the fear of discrimination. Some of the things I hear from within our MS community echo this.

When my friend and her wife were making a decision about treatments, pregnancy and family planning weren’t factored in by doctors because they are a lesbian couple. Non-binary people are frequently misgendered by health professionals.

Recognising and understanding a person living with MS as intersectional, as having a multifaceted identity, means we acknowledge and can meet their needs as a whole person. By joining Pride we’re telling people with MS that the needs of diverse people in the MS community won’t be ignored and do matter to us.

Why does Pride matter?

Going back to Barbara Jordan, the 1970s were a very different time to live as a gay woman and as a person with MS.

Since then we've gained the Equality Act, same sex marriage, and you can see LGBTQ+ characters on Emmerdale and other mainstream shows. In terms of MS we continue to make strides with our campaigns, research and the ways we support people.

But there’s still much to be done in the LGBTQ movement. In the last 5 years there's been a 144% surge in homophobic hate crime across England and Wales. We still need Pride to help fight that rise.

For me Pride means acceptance

It’s crucial that LGBTQI+ people who might feel marginalised in wider society feel accepted and supported within our MS community.

People like me often experience exclusion from the LGBTQI+ community. Queer spaces, gay bars and Pride marches are often inaccessible. We’re left feeling alienated or “othered” and this exclusion compounds the sense of discrimination we feel as people who already face multiple disadvantages.

For me Pride should mean inclusion and marching with the MS Society feels like we’re being supported to claim our space within it. That we have a right to take part and exist within the LGBTQ+ space

Barbara Jordan speaking at the 1976 Democratic National Convention
If the society today allows wrongs to go unchallenged, the impression is created that those wrongs have the approval of the majority.
Barbara Jordan

For me Pride means equality and progress

Even when the issues affect a minority, everyone living with MS should have dignity, empowerment and equality. To see the MS Society campaigning beyond MS and standing up for people within our community who experience any form of social inequality means we care about all people with MS.

For me Pride has a sense of celebration

By joining Pride we set the tone for the organisation and for the community, we make ourselves visible to people who might feel alienated from us.

We're sending a clear message that the MS Society celebrates diversity and belongs to us all. 

Raising awareness online

This year, celebrations across the country are moving online - and you can join us! Add a frame to your Facebook or Twitter profile or a sticker to your Insta story today.

To add stickers to Instagram, first start a story by clicking the + on your profile pic then search MS Society to find our sticker.