By Tas Kronby | Website
Life is complicated for everyone but intersectionality adds unique complications. Neurotypical, cisgender and heterosexual people do not understand or experience the barriers that neurodivergent individuals face when you part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
People assume coming out only applies to gender and sexuality. However, not only do you come out as being LGBTQIA+ but as neurodivergent. Neurodivergent diagnoses can make your social interactions difficult, invalidating and intrusive. Mental health and developmental diagnoses change how people perceive you, accept you and determine if they listen to you when you need support.
Neurodiversity can quickly silence your voice and create barriers for you in your community. This article will share personal experiences of barriers in the healthcare and professional circles as an LGBTQIA+ adult that is neurodivergent. The names in these examples were changed.
While reading these examples it is important to remember that no matter the obstacles you experience in your everyday life, your voice matters and you are valid.
The doctor actually said…
On a Monday morning, the couple went to a new doctor for the first time. While both partners were neurodivergent, this appointment was for Cee. Now, Cee was a queer autistic adult and simply needed a new primary care doctor. After a long line at check-in, they finally get to the examination room.
The nurse goes down the list of medication allergies, what types of medications they take and finally asks about a diagnosis. Cee says they are autistic and listed some other needed details. The nurse paused and looked at the couple, but said nothing as she left the room and ushered in Dr. Smith. At first, the appointment was just like any other medical visit. He was kind, so Cee was excited to get their healthcare established. Things took a turn for the worst when Dr. Smith was reading the diagnosis list. “So you’re autistic?” He glanced at the couple and looked uncomfortable.
“But you can talk?”
The myth that all autistic people are nonverbal has become a standard assumption. Dr. Smith was confused and immediately started to question the diagnosis. Autistic people face this barrier because of a lack of awareness. When there are misconceptions about autism in your medical care you do not receive the right treatments.
Dr. Smith, a medical professional, allowed stigma to impact the quality of care he provides.
The situation went from bad to worse when Dr. Smith asked the most intrusive and inappropriate question. Cee disclosed their pronouns and sexual orientation on the medical paperwork. Dr. Smith rhetorically asked, “You’re gay and autistic?” He looked at Cee’s partner with judgemental eyes.
“There is no way you can consent to a homosexual relationship if you’re autistic.”
Dr. Smith questioned the validity of Cee’s identity because of their neurodivergent status.
A coworker crosses the line
The office building was busy and one neurodivergent employee had to work with a new group of people. This employee was out to their coworker as having developmental and mental health diagnoses, but not as LGBTQIA+. It was not a workplace of diversity and they felt uncomfortable disclosing their many intersectionalities. At the end of a workday, their coworker was sharing their plans for the holidays. The conversation seemed completely innocent until they were the last ones left in the office. The coworker pulled up a chair and said they had some questions about disability and mental health conditions.
There were no red flags at this point, so the conversation continued. The coworker took a deep breath and said “If you have all these disabilities, how can you be sexually active? There is no way you can consent to have sex which means that people are technically raping you.”
While this interaction may seem shocking to some, it is a normal part of life when you are part of multiple marginalized communities. People assume that being neurodivergent is a problem. The stigma manifests in them not respecting individual autonomy and identity.
Being different does not give people the right to ask inappropriate questions. Your sexuality is not open for discussion in such a vulgar way in a place of employment. However, neurotypical people will consistently cross the line of what is professional when you are open about your identity as a neurodiverse professional.
The impact of these experiences
The scenarios above are only two examples of how the intersectionality between neurodivergence and LGBTQIA+ creates unique interactions and challenges. You may face medical practitioners that question your identity, diagnosis and ask inappropriate questions. You could be in a toxic work environment where your coworkers cross professional boundaries with intrusive and unprofessional interrogation.
It is important to remember that you do not deserve that treatment. It is 100% okay to start setting boundaries. Setting boundaries could be getting a new job, reporting harassment, or changing to a new doctor for care management. Self-advocating for your rights is not always easy, but every step you take to speak up makes a difference for you and others.
If you are LGBTQIA+ and neurodivergent your identity is valid. Stereotypes and stigma do not have to define your self worth. There will be times that you face negativity and oppression because of your neurodivergent status. This oppression becomes amplified if you are diagnosed with mental health or developmental disabilities.
A benefit of intersectionality is that you are never alone in your experiences. People in these communities, your community, will listen to your voice and are here to support you.