My name’s Tom; I am both gay and autistic. The intersectionality identifying from these is a beneficial paring for me. Belonging to these ‘two families’ has helped me to learn the value of being around other people who are both understanding and compassionate towards ‘difference’.
I believe it’s this supportive network that has helped me grow in confidence, have many flourishing friendships, and has made me the person I am today.
Through friendships, my social skills have developed. My once great fear of public speaking has diminished. Where I was once bullied for not being ‘normal’ identifying as gay has given me a safe space of like-minded individuals, sheltering me from previous bullying and ridicule. This positivity has also nurtured many lasting and fulfilling relationships.
I believe current societal assumptions prejudice autistic relationships, yet this has not been my experience. Pre-judgement dictates that dating would be impossible for an autistic individual like myself to navigate. Due to disabling stereotypes that focus one-sidedly on autistic traits such as introversion, a lack of social awareness and an inability to form significant human connections. All of which I believe to be overstated, promoting intolerance, resulting in the belief that autistic individuals are unable to develop deep and meaningful relationships.
I consider that it’s due in part to the loving support of my fellow LGBTQ+ members that I have been able to experience great relationships.
I’ve been asked by the Autism Plan to give advice to young gay autistic people about dating. Here it is:
Forget what everyone else is doing and what society says you can and cannot do. Focus on you!
Know what you like, and what you don’t like!
Relationships only work if you have a good relationship with yourself first. This means knowing who you are, what you like, what you don’t like, what you need and not worrying that you are ‘different’ or that you do not fit a certain typology. Being okay with yourself is the most important step. This understanding allows you to know when a situation may be challenging and can help create opportunities for coping strategies to emerge.
Here are some examples: if you know you might struggle to make eye contact…don’t try! Don’t worry that other people might view it as ‘different’, just be honest, and with pride explain why you don’t do that thing that society dictates as ‘normal’ communicative behaviour.
If you get upset by change…don’t bottle up this emotional response out of fear of being outcast. Explain why change is upsetting to you, and what others can do to help.
Tell people what you need
From my experience, I have learnt that it’s only through creating an open dialogue that things will improve for yourself, and also for those around you as they become more aware and understanding of your needs. If an individual does not empathise with you then, quite honestly, don’t waste your time on them!
Don’t rush into a relationship out of peer pressure; this is common. Sometimes everyone you know seems to be dating and finding a partner. But my advice is to only go on a date when you feel comfortable, ready, and have found someone you think is worth spending your time with.
Remember: There is someone out there that will love you for you, quirks and all!