National Multiple Sclerosis Society Dismisses a 90-Year-Old Volunteer for ‘Asking What Pronouns Meant’

Fran Itkoff

Fran Itkoff is 90 years old—she’s volunteered at the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society for 60 of them.

For two-thirds of her life, she served people with MS and their families with compassion and dedication. To Fran, it was personal: her late husband had an MS diagnosis.

The National MS Society awarded Itkoff with multiple awards over the years for her good heart and strong work ethic. Until recently, when they unceremoniously dismissed her.

The reason? Itkoff didn’t understand what “using pronouns” meant in her email signature when a representative instructed her to start using them.

“I had seen it on a couple of letters that had come in after the person’s name. But I didn’t know what it meant,” Itkoff said in an interview. “So when I finally talked to her, I asked what it meant … And she said that meant they were all inclusive, which didn’t make sense to me … Because it sounds like you are labeling for females, not males, if you are just putting in she/her.”

Itkoff was dismissed a few days later for violating the nonprofit’s new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policy. A screenshot of the email Fran received was shared with the DailyMail:


The letter acknowledged Itkoff’s years of dedication and contribution, and in the same breath, it not only fired her—it cut ties with the entire Lakewood/Long Beach Self-Help Group, the same group that used to be managed by her late husband.

“We sincerely hope you understand the necessity of this decision,” the letter stated. She didn’t.

Itkoff was genuinely shocked and confused. Her daughter was livid, and so was the internet. The two gave an interview to the Libs of TikTok, and the story immediately went viral.

Public backlash reached such heights that the National MS Society issued an apology to Itkoff. It sheepishly blamed a lack of protocols for the incident. “We realize now that we made a mistake, and we should have had more conversations with Fran before making this decision,” the Society said in a statement. “… everyone who shares our vision of a world free of MS is welcome here,” it wrote. As long as you use your pronouns.

Itkoff’s future with the National MS Society is unknown, but the damage is already done. The MS society broke her trust in an ageist, mean-spirited way. Itkoff may decide to forgive them for it, but beware: if you don’t subscribe to society’s political agenda, they will try to erase you. 

Take Action

Contact the National MS Society and tell them you stand with Fran Itkoff—identity politics have no place in MS patient support.


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