Christopher C. Gagliardi, Correspondent
I am very fortunate to live in the United States because, with progress, even people with special needs are being acknowledged for their contributions to society. However, LGBTQ people who are also autistic face the same problem that other members of the community endure. Coming out as LGBTQ is a struggle made even harder for autistic people.
It was just recently that laws changed regarding people who are a part of the LGBTQ community, ensuring the same accessibility to jobs, marriage and beyond. However, there is a group of citizens on the spectrum that keeps fighting for the awareness that they are a part of the same LGBTQ community seeking acceptance as those who are not on the spectrum. With your indulgence, I would like to share some key facts to help people understand that people on the spectrum who also identify as LGBTQ are just like everyone else.
The main issue for LGBTQ people on the spectrum is the issue of gender identification. It is a bit more difficult for them because of language barriers and self-awareness. According to the Organization for Autism Research, “it is important for everyone to learn about these topics to better understand themselves and those around them. After all, everyone has a sexual orientation and gender identity.”
However, in a 2018 study report conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) under the authority of the National Institute of Health (NIH), “In the group with ASD, 69.7% of the sample reported being non-heterosexual, while in the [typically developed] group, 30.3% reported being non-heterosexual. The group with ASD reported higher rates of gay, bisexuality and asexuality, but lower rates of heterosexuality. The results support the impression that non-heterosexuality is more prevalent in the autistic population.”
Eric Ascher, a person on the autism spectrum who also identifies as gay, stated in a June 2018 article on respectability.org, “Among lesbian, gay and bisexual adults, 30 percent of men and 36 percent of women also identify as having a disability. The disability community intersects with every other minority group, and the LGBTQ community is no exception.”
In addition to this, there is a growing consensus that people who are on the spectrum have a difficult time explaining their sexual preference. This can feel extremely vulnerable because of the potential risks that factor in for someone who identifies as LGBTQ, and especially those who are on the spectrum. Yet, the Organization for Autism Research says that you are not alone or should feel scared. They have stated “It is okay if you feel scared, confused, or vulnerable if you are trying to figure out your sexuality or gender identity. It is also okay to feel relieved, proud, and empowered to be who you truly are.”
The question we now ask ourselves is, how can we as a country help people who are on the spectrum open up and feel accepted for who they are and who they prefer? There are groups that are out there that provide support and can be of great assistance for people struggling with these issues. Even clubs at Bergen such as Pride Club, or outside organizations like twainbow.org, welcome anyone who feels alone, frightened or does not know how to deal with coming out of their shell. The term “coming out of the closet” is a big deal for anyone who wants to tell those around who love them who they prefer. For someone on the spectrum, coming out is a delicate and very important issue. We can all learn to be more accepting and therefore make the process easier for those we care about.