By Stuart Balachandran – Clinical Psychology Registrar
Please note that Queer in this context is used as a reclaimed and inclusive term that encompasses and celebrates the totality of sexuality and gender identity that may not be included in the LBTQIA+ acronym and is not intended to be associated with its historical use as a slur against the LGBTQIA+ community.
At Minds & Hearts, we provide compassionate and supportive care for neurodivergent individuals and their families facing unique challenges related to all aspects of life. Today, we want to talk about sexuality and relationships through the lens of the intersection of being Queer and on the Spectrum.
We understand that Autistic individuals can face specific difficulties concerning their sexuality and relationships. For those identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, these challenges can be even more complex. Studies show that Autistic individuals are much more likely to be non-heterosexual and non-gender conforming than their allistic peers, with estimates suggesting they are two to five times more likely to be part of the LGBTQIA+ population.
As clinicians, carers and friends, it’s essential for us to be aware of these unique challenges and to support individuals in overcoming them. In this post, we want to explore some of the difficulties Autistic individuals face within the LGBTQIA+ community and provide some suggestions for support to help promote their well-being.
CHALLENGES FACING AUTISTIC INDIVIDUALS IN THE LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY:
Difficulty with social cues and communication
Individuals on the autism spectrum may struggle with social cues and communication, making it challenging to navigate relationships in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Autistic individuals may experience sensory sensitivities, making it challenging to participate in social events with demanding sensory environments. This may limit their ability to connect socially with others in the LGBTQIA+ community.
Lack of support and understanding
Autistic individuals may feel that their experiences and challenges are not understood or valued within the LGBTQIA+ community, leading to feelings of isolation and discrimination.
Difficulty with intimacy and sexual relationships
Autistic individuals may struggle with intimacy and sexual relationships, impacting their ability to form romantic connections and experience sexual fulfilment. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Vulnerability to prejudice
Research indicates that Autistic individuals are more likely to have sexual contact that is incongruous with their preferred or expressed sexuality and gender identity. This can make them vulnerable to prejudice from both the heterosexual and LGBTQIA+ communities.
SUPPORTS FOR AUTISTIC INDIVIDUALS IN THE LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY:
Education and awareness
Providing education and awareness around autism can promote understanding and reduce stigma within the LGBTQIA+ community.
Creating sensory-inclusive spaces for events and activities can make them more accessible to Autistic individuals.
Tailored mental health support
Providing mental health services that are tailored to the specific needs of Autistic individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community can help address the unique challenges they face.
Relationship and intimacy support
Providing resources and support for Autistic individuals to navigate relationships and intimacy can help promote healthy connections and fulfilment.
Support informed by lived experience.
Therapists who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community can provide informed support for individuals seeking help in areas specific to the community.
At Minds & Hearts, we recognise the unique challenges that autistic individuals may face regarding their sexuality and relationships in the LGBTQIA+ community. By providing education, creating inclusive spaces, and offering tailored mental health and relationship support, we can work to promote the well-being of autistic individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community and reduce the barriers they face in accessing support. For further information or support, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
George, R., & Stokes, M. A. (2018a). Gender identity and sexual orientation in autism spectrum disorder. Autism, 22(8), 970-982. https://doi.org/10.1177/1362361317714587
George, R., & Stokes, M. A. (2018). A Quantitative Analysis of Mental Health Among Sexual and Gender Minority Groups in ASD. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48(6), 2052-2063. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-3469-1
George, R., & Stokes, M. A. (2018b). Sexual Orientation in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Res, 11(1), 133-141. https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.1892
Strang, J. F., Kenworthy, L., Dominska, A., Sokoloff, J., Kenealy, L. E., Berl, M., Walsh, K., Menvielle, E., Slesaransky-Poe, G., Kim, K. E., Luong-Tran, C., Meagher, H., & Wallace, G. L. (2014). Increased gender variance in autism spectrum disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Arch Sex Behav, 43(8), 1525-1533. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-014-0285-3