The link between autism and Queerness

The other day I live recorded a podcast episode about neurodivergence and queerness. In it, we discussed the fact that Autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people are more likely to be Queer/2SLGBTQIA+. The discussion was very good, and we really got into some of our experiences.

It’s no secret that Queerness is a significant intersection with Autistic experience. Aside from anecdotes from within the community, studies such as Janssen et al (2016) and Strang et al (2020) indicate that not only are we more likely to be gender-diverse, but that Queer communities are more likely to contain Autistic people. Strang on particular speaks of the lack of research looking into experiences over the lifespan and the need for such longitudinal study to be carried out.

With so much Queerness in the Autistic community, one might wonder why this intersection is so significant. I think the answer is quite simple. Albeit somewhat theory heavy.

Neuronormativity.

Neuronormativity is pervasive, and if you think that it only effects neurodivergent people you are wrong. Both BIPOC and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities have fallen foul of the belief that there is a standard of neurology we should all achieve. It was not so long ago that being gay or transgender was listed in the DSM as a psychiatric disorder.

Autistic people naturally queer neuronormative standards. In this sense, queer is a verb. It is the subversion of societal expectation. Through our rejection of neuronormativity, we create space to explore our gender and sexuality (or lack thereof) unencumbered by the chains of bigoted standards of being.

When we begin to dismantle neuronormativity, we also begin to dismantle heteronormativity. Our experience of ourselves and attraction (or lack of attraction) to others is built upon the experiences we have of our environment. Experiences that we have through the lens of being Autistic. You can not separate autism from our queerness any more than you can separate a person from their brain. They are part of us, and without them, we would be someone different.

Thus, to neuroqueer in society is to become more than just neurologically queer, but also queer with respect to gender and sexuality.

With this said, there is still bigotry in the Autistic community. There are those who weaponise our intersectionality against us, and wield it as a tool to invalidate and oppress us; and yes, there are oppressive attitudes within our own community.

We must continue to build a community that is loving and accepting of all of the diversity within Autistic experience and recognise that Autistic people all experience the world in their own unique way.