US: MS Society sacks 90-year-old volunteer for ‘breaching pronoun policy’

America’s National MS Society has sacked a 90-year-old lady who had volunteered with them for 60 years after she asked what pronouns were.

Fran Itkoff was forced to step down last month when she was informed she had breached the charity’s ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ guidelines.

She had been running a volunteer fundraising and support group in California for 60 years – including with her late husband prior to his death from the condition.


Mrs Itkoff claims she was removed after she was asked to start using pronouns on her email signature, but did not understand the request. She told social media influencer Chaya Raichik: “I was confused. I didn’t know what it was and what it meant”.

A few days later, she received an email accusing her of violating the MS Society’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion guidelines and informing her “we have made the difficult decision to have you step down from your volunteer position, effective immediately”.

Itkoff said: ‘I was completely shocked”. Her daughter Elle commented: “they’re saying they’re being inclusive, but yet they’re excluding a 90-year-old disabled woman who has volunteered for over 60 years”.

Former US tennis ace and women’s rights campaigner Martina Navratilova, called the non-profit’s actions “the opposite of progress”.


In response the charity said: “We believe that our staff acted with the best of intentions and did their best to navigate a challenging issue.

“As an organization, we are in a continued conversation about assuring that our diversity, equity and inclusion policies evolve in service of our mission, and will reach out to Fran in service of this goal.”

In 2014, a grandfather who spent almost 20 years volunteering for the British Red Cross was axed by the organisation for opposing same-sex marriage.

After Bryan Barkley held a sign which read “No Same Sex Marriage” and “No Redefinition of Marriage” on the first day same-sex marriages took place in England, the charity told him his views were incompatible with its “fundamental principles and values”.

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