We are the Wild Rainbows

The Wild Rainbows are a group of LGBTQ+ people who are also part of the Sussex Gig Buddies and Sports Buddies projects. Some of us are adults with learning disabilities and/or autism, some are volunteers and some are staff – anyone who is part of the project who identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community is welcome to be a Wild Rainbow!

Why does the group exist?

The group started over five years ago in Brighton, when a few Buddies decided that being LGBTQ+ and having a learning disability was quite unique! Bernie, who was one of the founding members of the group, says:

it can be hard to be LGBTQ+ and it can also be hard to be disabled. If you’re both, you can have some hard times

I asked him why the group was important to him and the other members, and he added that the idea of the group was to have a safe space where the members could understand each other’s experiences and support each other. Over the years, the group has grown to include the whole of Sussex and has got bigger and brighter along the way!

A group photo of people brightly dressed in rainbows at the Pride parade. They are stood outside in the rain with a banner that says "People with learning disabilties partying with pride".

What do the Wild Rainbows do?

A close up photo of a man in a rainbow suit and a rainbow hat holding a pride hat and stood in front of a bus.

We have done some amazing things! We believe our voices and identities are something to be proud of, not hidden away. Being visible in the community, attending mainstream LGBTQ+ events and representing LGBTQ+ learning disabled and/or autistic people is important.

We have been in the Brighton Pride Parade for several years, which is a great opportunity for us to show thousands of people just how proud we are. Last year we faced some of the worst ever weather conditions, with wind, rain and even hail, but we still had fun and danced our way through the parade!

Bernie says that being at Pride is the highlight of the year, and he wants the world to know he has overcome the difficulties he has faced about being gay and learning disabled, and he is proud of who he is.

Apart from having fun and celebrating who we are, we also do campaign work. We made a guide to ‘a safe LGBTQ+ night out’ with the support of the Enjolaata Foundation. It contains simple and easy steps to a great night out where you’re free and safe to be yourself. We want to encourage people to go out into the community and realise this space is theirs as much as anyone’s.

In 2022 the Wild Rainbows also took part in a photoshoot for Photosymbols in order to model the topics of ‘LGBTQ+ lives’, ‘pride’ and ‘LGBTQ+ and proud’. This means there’s now more representation of LGBTQ+ adults with learning disabilities and autistic people out there! Everyone who was photographed loved the experience and came away feeling they had represented both themselves and their community.

What’s next for the Wild Rainbows?

We want our impact to continue to grow and for people to understand that being LGBTQ+ and learning disabled and/or autistic is something to be proud of. We also want to continue being a safe space and a group where people can support each other as friends who understand how it feels to be in this community. This year we have decided not to march in the Brighton Pride Parade in order to save our energy for the party in the park. We are excited to go and dance, drink, have fun and party with the rest of the community. We’ll be in our rainbows and glitter feeling loud, proud and beautiful – see you there!

Are you a Gig or Sports Buddy in Sussex who identifies as LGBTQ+? If you would like to be involved in the Wild Rainbows then contact me on sophie@stayuplate.org or call 07812 496088 to sign up!