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  • Kelly Tennant

Intersectionality of autism and LGBTQ2SIA+ identities

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

In my last post, I talked specifically about women and neurodiversity, and I want to go beyond that today to talk about the intersectionality of neurodiversity, gender, and sexual orientation.

Although there's not a lot of formal research being done on this topic, the results of studies and surveys that have been conducted show that up to 35% of autistics identify as LGBTQ2SIA+, which is a huge proportion compared to the overall population, where only 4% of people identify as LGBTQ2SIA+. This is so interesting to me, and makes me think: what about being autistic makes people more likely to consider alternative gender and sexual identities?

Lydia X. Z. Brown, a disabled and queer policy advocate and attorney, as part of a panel presentation at the Out Leadership US Summit 2020, explained that if you are positioned to question “norms” than you are automatically more willing to embrace a non-conforming gender identity. (See more about the panel presentation here: Why neurodivergence is also an LGBTQ+ topic | Out Leadership)

Another interesting facet of this topic is that female and AFAB autists are more likely to identify as lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, bigender, non-binary, genderqueer, gender fluid, transgender, or agender compared to male or AMAB autists, although we don't really know why this is. There's also evidence to show that autistics are more open to exploring non-traditional relationship structures, such as polyamory.

According to the Fenway Institute's National LGBT Health Education Center, qualitative research studies and clinical experience provide insight into the unique experience of gender-diverse, neurodiverse youth, who are the first generation to feel more comfortable openly exploring both of these identities:

  • These youth often experience a sense of urgency around affirming their gender identity.

  • For some, gender identity is an area of active exploration and fluidity. These youth may fluctuate in how they define, and how strongly they emphasize, their gender identity.

  • Non-binary experience is common; in clinical experience, many patients feel most comfortable with non-binary gender identification.

  • Doctors and parents may confuse gender exploration as a special interest and assume it will be a passing phase, which can be harmful and dismissive.

If you're interested in exploring your identity on any of these spectrums, reach out to book a consult call or intake appointment. My office (whether physical or virtual) is always a safe place to fully be yourself!

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