Who we are
The photo-exhibition and the accompanied engagement event are part of a PhD research project that explores the psycho-social experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* (LGBT) individuals living with multiple sclerosis (MS). It is led by Periklis Papaloukas, a PhD candidate at De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester and supervised by Professor Julie Fish and Dr Iain Williamson. The study used an innovative methodology combining interviews and photographs. Twenty-eight individuals from all over the world (UK, US, Australia, Canada, Sweden, South Africa and Germany) took part with the majority of the participants providing photographs they created. Those images were described and fully explained in interviews with Periklis. The individuals represent the diversity of the LGBT and MS communities. Persons self-identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, cisgender, transgender, and gender-fluid persons took part and they are diagnosed with primary progressive, secondary progressive, and relapsing remitting MS.
The photographs, the exhibits and the accompanied captions and descriptions were not generated as mere art objects, but rather as tools of expressing and sharing a lifeworld which is profoundly embedded with the notions of identity, social interconnectedness, and illness reality. Issues of disability, accessibility, visibility and invisibility of the MS, its progression and day-to-day issues of living are explored. These conceptual experiences, worries, hopes and aspirations are the same for all individuals living with MS, irrespective of sexuality or gender-identity. At the same time, the specific understandings of an LGBT life merged with an MS identity and the implications of the intersection of identities were explored through the photographs and the exhibits. The diversity of the LGBT communities was also presented in the photos and provided an insight on the similarities and the differences of the LGBT communities spectrum.