The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people living with the chronic condition of multiple sclerosis (MS) will be explored in a poignant photographic exhibition at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) this week.
The free event, which is taking place at DMU’s The Gallery tomorrow and Thursday (10-11 May), is part of a qualitative research project being led by DMU social sciences PhD student Periklis Papaloukas.
Periklis is investigating the psychological experiences of LGBT people living with MS. He explained: “Chronic illness, disability and specifically neurological conditions, like MS, are underexplored in LGBT communities in a health psychology context.
“There is dearth of research in this field. Currently, this is the only research project worldwide exploring this condition and its psycho-social impacts on LGBT individuals.”
For his PhD research, Periklis is using an amended form of a fairly new technique in psychology and the social sciences called ‘photovoice’. It is a visual technique where people explain their world through the use of photos that they have taken themselves. They then explain what the images symbolise for them and their lives.
“Research can play an important role in engaging the public and disseminating information about health-related issues, especially in a visual way, so this event will explore the experiences of participants who took part in the research, with the use of photographs, and other exhibits created and suggested by the participants,” Periklis added.
He has recruited 28 participants from diverse international backgrounds, from countries such as the the UK and US to Australia and South Africa. They have provided him with nearly 50 hours of in-depth interviews and 180 photographs. The participants were contacted through websites, via social media and other methods, including liaising with support organisations such as the MS Society.
Some of the participants Periklis interviewed for his research will be attending The Gallery this Thursday night as part of an interactive engagement event running from 6pm until 8.30pm.
There will be short presentations by Periklis and some of the participants so they can offer their perspectives as well as a Q&A session.
“It will provide the audience and the guests with insights about the photo-task, but more importantly about what does the experience of being from the LGBT communities and living with MS mean for the participants,” Periklis said.
The event has been funded by the #DMUEngage awards programme, a scheme which aims to maximise the impact of research. He hopes the event will help to raise awareness and prompt discussion around the subject, raise the visibility of DMU as an institution which spearheads innovative research within the social sciences, and raise the profile of his project.
The Gallery, which is based inside DMU’s landmark Vijay Patel Building, is the largest space of its kind in Leicester. Periklis, who has co-authored Public Health England-funded reports previously, has several research interests including sexual health, HIV prevention, critical health psychology, chronic illness and health inequalities of marginalised individuals and communities.
He has collaborated with a number of charities and NGOs conducting work in health, sexual health and human rights education within marginalised communities, both in the UK and his home country of Cyprus. He is also the secretary of the board of AEQUITAS, an NGO dedicated to the promotion of human rights and inter-cultural education in Cyprus.