Viewpoint: Why we need to better understand sexual orientation, gender identity in autism

Image credit: Dan Page/theispot

In contemporary media, portrayals of autistic people are typically stereotyped and conventional: heterosexual, cisgender and, more often than not, naïve. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer and similar (LGBTQ+) autistic identities, unfortunately, remain taboo.

However, emerging evidence suggests that autistic people are more likely to identify outside of conventional genders and sexualities than the general population is.

So what does it mean to be autistic and gender-diverse? To find out, we followed 22 autistic gender-diverse adolescents for nearly two years5.

Most of the autistic adolescents recalled having gender-diverse inclinations in early childhood. However, many were reluctant to express their gender identity because they worried about bias and harassment. And yet it seemed urgent to most of them to address their gender needs.

Related article:  Understanding the 'little brain' could be key to treating autism, addiction

[O]ne-third of the participants said other people had questioned their gender diversity because they are autistic. For example, they said people had told them that their gender diversity is an obsession rather than a ‘real’ experience, or that the experience is a feature of autism itself. They found these assumptions distressing.

We know that one of the most protective factors for youth in a gender or sexual-orientation minority is understanding and support from important people in their lives. This is likely to be even more true for those on the autism spectrum.

Read full, original post: Why we need to respect sexual orientation, gender diversity in autism

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