Updated: Jul 5
Roxy Murray shows us how fashion continues to be a valuable form of self-expression in light of their experience living with Multiple Sclerosis.
By Roxy Murray
In a world that often and prioritises certain standards of beauty and normative identities. It can be challenging to identify as both queer and disabled and to express one’s true identity.
My name is Roxy Murray, and I always knew I was queer from an early age but I never knew I was going to add disabled to the list of my identities.
I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2014. Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that affects your nervous system and brain. Living with MS can bring unique challenges to one’s life including symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty walking, vision problems, mental health struggles with self perception and bladder issues to name a few.
It’s known as a snowflake disease as no two individuals deal with the same effects.
As someone who is living at the intersection of multiple marginalised identities it has brought a list of unique experiences into my life and many obstacles that I've had to learn to navigate. Through my personal journey, I have discovered style can be a powerful tool in embracing my identity and reclaiming my sense of power through my style choices and how I choose to adorn my body.
I studied fashion styling at university, but after I became disabled I had to stop working within an industry that wasn’t accessible and although they did embrace queer individuals to a certain extent I had not seen many queer disabled individuals gracing a catwalk or the pages of my fashion magazines. Let alone working within the wider industry itself .
However I could not predict how at least learning the skill of styling was going to play such a transformative role in my life, allowing me to empower my queer, disabled identity and navigate the world with confidence. Ultimately, defying the obstacles posed by my MS and celebrating my true self.
Through my exploration of my own style I’ve learned that we can showcase our queer disabled identities with pride, challenge societal norms and create space for representing ourselves authentically.
The act of intentionally curating our appearance allows us to defy societal expectations and demonstrate that queer disabled individuals are not defined solely by our disabilities or limited by certain fashion choices. We can assert our unique, personal style that transcends conventional boundaries and breaks the barriers of societal deems normal.
By being visible, we contribute to a greater sense of community and provide role models for others who may be searching for their own identities. Choosing clothing that reflects our authentic selves allows us to feel more comfortable in our own skin and it becomes this statement of self love, reminding us that our bodies and identities are worthy of celebration. As a disabled individual, this is so important to me.
Every morning, I would wake up feeling disconnected from myself, unable to dress in the way that truly expressed my identity and brought me joy. Numbness and tingling would course through my left side, while my leg began dragging behind me, a stark reminder that my body was changing and limiting my mobility. Accepting these changes and the loss of my previous range of motion was an incredibly difficult process.
I was entering a new stage in my journey, so I needed to embrace my new normal. I started to find myself in bland lounge clothing that didn’t speak to my queer identity or my personal
style. And when I needed to move around I had to use grey NHS style crutches. This wasn’t filling me with joy, and as an individual who feels so much empowerment through my style choices. I honestly believe it wasn’t helping my healing or mental health either. Living with MS has necessitated constant adaptation to accommodate my changing abilities, and style has played a crucial role in this process by allowing me to choose fashion to meet my specific needs.
I took to the internet to look for clothes that would better suit my identity. I needed fashion that brought me joy but that I could afford to buy especially living in the UK. This is where I first came across adaptive fashion and mobility aids. My journey started online, where I came across a Canadian invention, a really cool bright yellow mobility aid that looked like a bike. It helped to ease my pain and filled my Pansexual body with joy–yellow being one of my happy colours.
From there, I began to explore other mobility aid brands, and one of my favorites is Neo Walks—a small company that creates mobility canes designed to infuse disabled individuals' lives with a delightful blend of disability pride, fashion, and queer joy.They have recently appeared in Vogue UK and on the Hollywood red carpet with celebrities such as Selmar Blair and Christina Applegate championing the brand.
With the rise of adaptable clothing, lines and inclusive design, we’re finally starting to find stylish options that prioritise comfort, accessibility and functionality for everyone but especially queer disabled individuals. From easy to wear fabrics to adapted closures and adjustable fits, these clothing options allow us to dress with confidence, accommodating specific needs that we have without compromising our style.
This is both refreshing and acknowledges disability, but also embraces the intersectionality of our queer identities. It recognises that queer disabled individuals exist within a complex web of identities and fashion, becoming a means of expressing the multifaceted nature of who we are. Through adaptive clothing lines that cater to different body types, gender expressions and styles, we can celebrate our intersexuality in showcasing the beauty and diversity within the disabled queer community.
My journey didn't stop there, though. When I delved further into adaptive fashion, I discovered that there were only a handful of brands owned by disabled individuals. Most of them focused on selling essential items like underwear and workwear, which, while beautiful and necessary, highlighted the urgent need for increased funding and support to push the boundaries of stylish, adaptive design. I believe that style and a focus on being stylish will play a crucial role in navigating this transformative change and ushering in a new era of fashionable adaptability for the next generation.
So I started to use my voice as a trained stylist to talk about what needs to change and how including queer and disabled voices in the creation of this would mean better branding and clothing options that connected with us as consumers especially when statistics predict more than a third of the disability community also identifies as LGBT+.
I do feel designers and the industry professionals in the space are listening and trying to shape the adaptive revolution to be more of an empowering disabled-led community. Designers like Victoria Jenkins from Unhidden clothing put on an amazing show at London Fashion Week this year. They had individuals with a range of disabilities and sexual identities grace the runway to showcase their designs which were both functional, colourful and fashionable.
I was lucky enough to be one of the chosen few to have this honour to represent our community. As well as British Vogue's May cover special series and article which featured an array of disabled icons, such as Aaron Phillip Rose, Selma Blair, Fats Timbo, Sinead Burke and many more. This powerful feature aimed to redefine the limits of fashion, demonstrating that one can be disabled, fashionable, and queer.
When I embarked on my journey with MS and sought to redefine my personal style, I could never have imagined the remarkable transformation that would unfold within the fashion industry itself in just a few short years. It is truly awe-inspiring to witness the evolution of an industry I believed was forever out of my reach, now actively carving out spaces that not only embrace my queer identity but also honor and accommodate my disabled identity.
This profound shift not only validates my own experiences but also paves the way for a more inclusive and diverse fashion landscape.
Roxy Murray (she/they)
Roxy is a fierce advocate for disability rights and sex positivity as a pansexual person living with Multiple Sclerosis. She's the founder of The Sick and Sickening Podcast, sharing unfiltered stories about living with disability and illness. Roxy's mission is to empower disabled and chronically ill individuals using fashion as a tool of activism - creating space and pushing for visibility for people from ethnically diverse backgrounds and the LGBTQIA+ community.
You can find more information about Roxy's work here.
If you would like to book Roxy as a speaker for a workshop or panel event, please get in touch with us via email at email@example.com
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