Coping with Chronic Illness During Pride Month

Pride month is a time of celebration, activism, and inclusion, but it can be tough to take part when you live with a chronic illness. There is such a wide range of chronic illnesses that an individual can suffer from and they can make it difficult to have the energy or ability to take part in events.

Even if symptoms are managed well enough that day to attend an event, accessibility within queer spaces can be lacking (to say the least). While we are taking strides in the right direction, there’s still a lot of work to be done so that disabled people feel welcomed and able to access pride events.

In the meantime, if you have a chronic illness there are ways you can strike a balance and take part in pride. You deserve to be involved just as much as anyone else!

Express Your Needs

Able-bodied friends might find it difficult to understand what you need and what you’re experiencing if you don’t explain it to them (I don’t think anyone can fully understand a chronic illness unless they live with it). So, if you’ll be attending pride events with friends, family, or a carer, speak up and make them aware of your needs. You can chat before you go about what you need so they can better support you.

There are lots of things loved ones can do to help. It might be as simple as them going with you to find a quiet space when you need to take a break, or holding your hand to reassure you. It may be that your friends need to take it a bit slower so that you can keep up. If you have access needs, chat with your friends beforehand so they can help you find an accessible event that you can all attend together.

It can be hard to ask those around you for help, but it can make your life a lot easier when you do. There’s no shame in asking for help – you are not a burden!

Use Your Mobility Aids

If you have access to mobility aids and they help you, then use them. There’s a lot of stigma around mobility aids, especially for younger people. This can make it difficult to overcome internalized ableism. But fundamentally, mobility aids are there to make you more mobile and improve your quality of life!

Some people have used aids for years because symptoms fluctuate from day to day and some use a number of different aids depending on what their needs are each day. Sometimes they need to use a wheelchair, sometimes a walker, and other times a stick. A lot of people love their aids and feel privileged to have access to them. They help you live your best life! Yet quite often other people with chronic illnesses say they struggle to use aids because they’re worried about what others might think or because they don’t feel they’re ‘ill’ enough to use them.

If using an aid could help you and you can access it, then you can use it! You don’t need permission from anyone else and it doesn’t matter what others think. Their purpose is to help you live the life you want to live, so use that aid if it allows you to get out there and enjoy pride!

Find Accessible Events

Group of people at a bar having drinks and taking pictures. Two of the people are in wheelchairs.

Friends at a bar.

Photo by ELEVATE

Although it shouldn’t have to be you that does the work to figure out if pride events are accessible, at the moment it falls to us for the most part. So, it’s best to do some research. If you have access needs, it’s best to email, message, or call event organizers to make sure you can access events. If it’s easier for you, you can make an email template so you can just copy and paste if there are a few events you want to contact.

Pace Yourself

If you’ve had any treatment for your chronic illness, you’ve likely heard of ‘pacing’. Essentially, it means pacing your activities, so that you’re taking rests and not overdoing things. This helps to prevent a flare-up of symptoms.

Pacing yourself during pride is important so you can take part without aggravating your symptoms too much. For example, you might only choose a couple of events that mean the most to you to take part in. You might schedule rests during the day or allocate a rest day after you’ve attended an event. At the end of the day, we’re all individuals and you know your body and how it responds to activity best.

Keep Up With Self-Care Practices

Self-care is anything you do to look after your physical or mental health, like sleeping on a regular schedule and eating well. When there’s lots of excitement going on and that party atmosphere, you might find yourself swept up in it and forget to keep up with self-care. Unfortunately, unlike able-bodied people, we tend not to be able to cope as well with this and it can take a toll on our bodies.

So, do your best to keep up with self-care even when you’re attending an event. Make sure you’re eating, staying hydrated (especially if you’re drinking alcohol), and getting some rest. Keep up with your medications and any treatments you use (It's helpful to set reminders).

Have a To-Go Bag

A to-go bag is a bag that has all the supplies you might need to help you manage your illness while you’re out. You have it ready packed so you can just grab it and take it with you wherever you go, that way you don’t need to worry about forgetting anything.

A to-go bag helps you be prepared, whether you’re attending pride or just going out to enjoy the sun. What you need in your to-go bag will vary depending on your illness and your symptoms, but we’ve included a list of examples below to give you some ideas:

  • A set of your medications
  • A list of numbers people to call if you need help
  • A fan to keep you cool (handy if your symptoms are aggravated by heat)
  • Some gloves, warm socks, a hat, or scarf to keep you warm (handy if you struggle with circulation issues)
  • A bottle of water in case you can’t find a place to get a drink
  • Some snacks (good if you struggle with blood sugar issues or if you need to keep your energy up)
  • A pulse oximeter (if you need to keep an eye on your heart rate and blood oxygen levels)
  • Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs (useful if you struggle with sensory issues)

Get Involved Online 

There are often pride events you can get involved in online. Since Covid, there’s been an increase in pride celebrations being streamed live or done via group call, which has made pride more accessible for people who may struggle to attend in person. Hopefully, these online events will continue so that more of us can be included.

You can also get involved in raising awareness and campaigning for better rights for our community by sharing petitions, speaking up on social media, and sharing your own experiences.

Say No When You Need To

Two bed lie in bed holding hands. They're wearing comfortable clothes and white socks with the pride rainbow on them.

Women with pride socks

Photo by Monstera

Even though it can be difficult to turn down an invite when you really want to take part, sometimes when you live with a chronic illness you have to say no. Your health comes first so don’t be afraid to set a boundary and stay home if you need to.

We know it can be frustrating and feel isolating when you aren’t able to be involved, especially when you see other people out enjoying pride with their friends on social media. But please know that you aren’t alone: there are lots of other chronically ill queers out there just like you.

For many, finding the chronic illness community within the LGBTQ+ community can be so validating and reassuring (there are lots of us on social media). You are valid and your needs matter. In the future, hopefully, pride will be more accessible to all of us.

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Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.

Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.