Tory peer claims LGBTQ+ Pride crossings will ‘trigger epilepsy’. Experts say that’s nonsense

A graphic showing a cut-out image of Baroness Nicholson in front of a rainbow crossing

Claims by Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne that a new Pride crossing in West London will “cause migraines and trigger epilepsy” have been thoroughly quashed by medical experts.

The new rainbow crossing was unveiled in Chiswick by Hounslow London Borough Council at the beginning of February and features the colours of the Progress Pride flag. 

The Progress Pride flag, developed in 2018 by non-binary American artist and designer Daniel Quasar, incorporates the colours of Gilbert Baker’s iconic rainbow flag from 1978 with black and brown to represent people of colour, followed by pink, light blue and white to represent the trans community and people across the gender spectrum. 

Rainbow Junction, located at the junction of Chiswick High Road where it meets Annandale Road and Turnham Green Terrace, was opened to coincide with the start of both LGBT+ History month and Football vs Homophobia month of action. 

The London council said the Pride crossing is a “vivid demonstration” of its “commitment to the rights of the borough’s LGBT+ community”. 

On Thursday (2 February), local Labour councillor John Stroud-Turp shared a picture of the crossing on Twitter

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This was a quote tweeted by Baroness Emma Harriet Nicholson, who made claims that the crossing would “inevitably” causes migraines and trigger epilepsy.

She was entirely incorrect.

The unelected Tory peer has a long history of being outspoken against LGBTQ+ rights, including voting against same-sex marriage and repealing Section 28, while in recent years she has taken on a particularly anti-trans rhetoric

Senior GP headache specialist Dr Katy Munro, who leads migraine clinics for the National Migraine Centre and is the author of the bestseller Managing Your Migraine, tells PinkNews: “Those with migraine can be sensitive to high contrast stripes, but a regular black and white zebra crossing is probably more likely to be a trigger than a multicoloured crossing.”

Epilepsy charity unaware of any incident caused by a Pride crossing

The team behind charity Epilepsy Action told PinkNews that three in 100 people with epilepsy have photosensitive epilepsy. Within this group, some people find they are affected by “high-contrasting striped patterns” which “can be a trigger for their seizures”.

A spokesperson for Epilepsy Action similarly pointed out that standard zebra crossings “use high-contrasting black and white striped patterns”, although the charity is not aware of any cases of these triggering a seizure.

“We are also not aware of any cases where pride flags/stripes have caused a problem for people with photosensitive epilepsy,” they added.

L-R on left side of crossing: Marcus Gayle (Brentford FC Ambassador), musician Harry Judd, Leader of Hounslow Council – Cllr Shantanu Rajawat, WLQP Founder – Aubrey Crawley. Right side of crossing: broadcaster Clare Balding and Alice Arnold, broadcaster Nicki Chapman. In background: Cllr Ranjit Gill (Chiswick Gunnersbury) and Ollie Saunders from Chiswick Flower Market (Hounslow Council/Anna Kunst)

The pride crossing was the brainchild of West London Queer Project (WLQP), which the council worked with during Pride 2022 and in the development of the council’s new Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion strategy.

On the crossing being unveiled, leader of the council, councillor Shantanu Rajawat, said: “Hounslow is a borough where everyone is welcome regardless of sexual orientation or identity.   

“WLQP have grown from a small group of friends to a borough-wide organisation of more than 5000 members in under a year; a clear indication of the need for our LGBT+ community to have a voice, recognition, and support.” 

Aubrey Crawley, founder of WLQP said: “We are delighted to continue a successful association with the council and celebrate these important landmarks in such a public way.   

“WLQP are also working with Brentford Football Club, as part of their support of Football vs Homophobia’s month of action, with skills sessions for the LGBT+ community and further supportive activity before their home game against Crystal Palace on 18 February.”