I am autistic and struggling with my sexual identity. What should I do?
Studies have found that a large proportion of autistic people are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, both the autistic community and the LGBT community are both groups that commonly experience problems with low self esteem and anxiety issues so these issues can be even more challenging for someone who identifies as a member of both groups.
The truth is that we all experience sexuality in different ways. Typically people would identify as being either straight or gay but there are in fact around 80 different types of sexualities and a similar number of gender identities. Maybe the reason that there is such a high percentage of autistic people identifying as members of the LGBTQ+ community is that autistic people are very honest with themselves. Autistic people tend to be very honest in general and pursue anything they believe as factual, so therefore if they experience feelings for anyone, whether of the same or other gender, they will not dispute these feelings, as that is the logical thing to do. That is an extremely mature thing to do.
Throughout our adolescent and maybe young adult years we explore our sexuality and what it means to us. As we move our way into adulthood we settle into our sexual and gender identity. It is about being totally comfortable with being you and embracing all the ways that others might think of you as being ‘different’. It is not useful for people to question whether your sexuality is ‘true’ or not. However, it is okay that you may change how you identify yourself, you can redefine your gender and sexual orientation, it is nobody else’s business! It is about respecting each others’ individuality and uniqueness. If you are struggling with your sexual identity there are a number of organisations that are available to support, such as ‘BeLonG To’ for example. LGBT.ie has a helpline dedicated to helping those who are struggling with their mental health as a result of their sexual orientation.
How can I meet people who are similar to me that identify as members of both LGBT and Autistic Community?
Getting in touch with an organisation like BelongTo or LGBT.ie means that you can meet other youth that are in a similar position to you and offer each other support at a peer level. Of course nobody is going to have identical journeys in relation to the acceptance of their gender or sexual identity but you will meet people who are on a similar journey of discovery like yourself. Seeking support from an organisation like this can provide you with advice on coming out, information about mental health supports available to you and a sense of belonging to a like-minded community. There are many organisations across the country and may be a group available in your local community, search on Google to see if you can find an organisation near you which you can turn to for support. There are also growing online autistic and neurodivergent LGBT communities. These ‘Neuroqueer’ groups mostly exist on social media and can be helpful for finding a community. As with any online communities, these should be approached carefully and safely.
How can I cope with being discriminated against as an autistic member of the LGBT community?
Unfortunately, still today, being part of a minority group means that you are more vulnerable to discrimination or bullying. The LGBTQ+ community is regarded as a minority group as is the autistic community. The more minority groups you identify with unfortunately the more challenges you are faced with. You really must be mindful of your own mental health and get as much support as you can. Remember, you are unique and that is what makes you you. Building your confidence should help you deal more effectively with discrimination. There can also sometimes be discrimination within a community, and there can be a wide variety of differences in how expressive people can be about their membership to a minority group. Not everyone will feel comfortable marching at the front of the Pride parade, and that is okay too!
How can I tell my parents that I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community?
It can be difficult to share very private details in relation to our identity with those who are closest with. Sometimes we might fear that our parents would be disappointed in us. Society or religion can sometimes tell us that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is wrong but this is not the case. Coming out can be scary as you might fear it could open you up to being discriminated against or bullied. Remember, that those people who support you do so because they care about you, finding out about your sexual identity should not change that. Find an appropriate time to speak with your parents. Maybe you could ask them to come and chat with you in your bedroom. The most important thing to do is to be honest with them and ask for their support.