In recent years, there has been a growing number of studies, looking into a link between autism, gender identity & sexual preferences. One study(1) in particular suggested that more than double the percentage of autistic people identify as non-heterosexual than their peers.
Whilst the research into the link between Autism, gender identity & sexual preferences is relatively new, Spark (2) found that compared with straight, cisgender autistic adults, a recent study found that LGBTQ+ adults experience significant health inequalities, including less access to services from medical providers. Given that autistic adults often have greater need for health services, the community and the healthcare system need to come together to provide added support and remove barriers to appropriate care for LGBTQ+ autistic people.
In a webinar hosted by Eileen Crehan, Ph.D (3) Eileen states that some adults, both with and without autism, say they wish they had received more education about sexuality when they were younger. This could be because the social and communication differences that some may experience may pose challenges for dating and relationships. And if they are LGBTQ+, those differences may cause challenges with the process of coming out to family and friends.
According to Spark(2), A higher percentage of autistic people identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) than the general population and In a Dutch study, only 57 percent of autistic women reported being straight compared to 82 percent of autistic men. The women were more likely to be attracted to both sexes, and also to neither sex.
Speaking to the National Autistic Society(4) Tom Moran said at times, he felt like he was “coming out twice”
“As a gay autistic man, it’s almost as if I have two identities. I have my LGBTQ+ identity and my autistic identity. Sometimes they both merge well together, and sometimes they don’t. LGBTQ+ people may have a greater understanding of autism, as they already know what it is like to be seen by society as ‘atypical.’ In some ways, being autistic and being LGBTQ+ are similar experiences. You may have to ‘come out’ in both communities. Both groups experience what it is like to be in a minority and face some forms of discrimination.”
Tom also discussed how to be a good ally:
“Having an understanding that we all share similar paths could help. I think it can be hard for straight autistic people to be allies, as there is not that much information out there. Sharing stories and content from the perspective of LGBTQ+ autistic people and other intersectional identities could be really helpful.”
It is apparent that whilst there is some support for those who are both autistic & LGBTQ+, it does appear that more could be done to support these communities.
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(5) https://www.autismspeaks.org/podcast/autism-povs-gender-and-autism - Podcast on Autism & Gender