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MDA Ambassador Guest Blog: Celebrating and Supporting LGBTQ+

5 Second Summary

MDA Ambassadors play an essential role in furthering MDA’s mission while representing and empowering the neuromuscular disease community. Quest Ambassador Guest Blog series provides a platform to share their personal stories, perspectives, and experience.

Rigo is an artist who studied at the Art Institute of Dallas. Although he has dealt with many challenges due to living with a neuromuscular disease, he likes to focus on what’s most important to him. He wants his artwork to advocate for people with disabilities and for it to tell others that things are possible when you believe in yourself.

Rodrigo Duran

Rodrigo Duran

People of all communities can carry biases. Gay, straight, able-bodied, or disabled – we can all be guilty of it. As a gay man living with a disability, I have experienced bias in many different ways. There is sometimes a type of ignorance and indirect discrimination towards someone of both communities that makes it hard to feel accepted. It has taken me awhile to learn this, but I have found that all that really matters is what I think of myself. My pride and my worth is not determined by the misconceptions of others.

I was surprised to find biases in the gay community. In college, there was a large percent of gay students, but I did not feel like I fit in because of my disability.  It took meeting someone else like me, who belonged to both communities, for me to realize that I am not alone. In my mid 20’s, for the first time in my life I met another gay man who also has disabilities. He was very quiet and I saw that he too felt like he didn’t quite fit in. I invited him over for pizza and to hang out a number of times. Because he was quite shy, it took me a few months to gain his trust and build a friendship. Once he allowed me into his social circle, I felt like I had accomplished something big. From the negative experiences I had, it only felt right to let someone else like me know that he too was accepted. I took pride in offering my friendship and help to another person so that they could see their own worth as well.

I wasn’t an MDA ambassador then, but I suppose our friendship was the start of my passion for advocacy and helping others. I shared resources with him, helped him get set up with Social Security, and we both grew from knowing each other. Our friendship helped me understand that I wasn’t alone and that all that really matters when it comes to our own pride and worth was what we think about ourselves.

So, what does it mean to me to be a gay disabled man? It’s an opportunity to show myself what I can accomplish, what I’ve accomplished in the last three decades, and that labels are only opinions. I learned to stop letting the bias of others make me question myself. Why is it also challenging to be part of both communities? What are others thinking of me? What are they saying about me? Why do these questions make me feel down and ashamed? The answer is two words: who cares? Again, all that matters is what you think of yourself. And you’ll be surprised to find what embracing pride in yourself can do. Sometimes it gives you that courage you need to take a next step. Don’t be afraid. If you took a next step and things came out wrong, at least you learned. That means more options are available. And you are worth every one of them!

Next Steps and Useful Resources

  • Learn more information about Congenital muscular dystrophy (CMD) here.
  • MDA’s Resource Center provides support, guidance, and resources for patients and families, including information about DMD, open clinical trials, and other services. Contact the MDA Resource Center at 1-833-ASK-MDA1 or ResourceCenter@mdausa.org
  • Stay up-to-date on Quest content! Subscribe to Quest Magazine and Newsletter.

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