There are so many directions we can go to participate in Pride Month. What do therapists do when there are multiple paths to take? Follow our clients, of course!
So for this blog I am doing just that. Some of my clients who identify within the diverse LGBTQ+ community have also been reporting difficulties with social communication, social interaction, sensitivity to sensory input, appropriate affect, understanding emotions of self or others, rigidity in interests and routines, and more. These difficulties are similar to what might clinically qualify a person as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder. As clinicians, we understand diagnoses such as autism can be accompanied with stigma and misunderstanding, so we can also view these difficulties as neurodivergence.
WHAT IS NEURODIVERSITY?
Neurodiversity describes any neural process (thinking, learning, processing, etcetera) that diverges from the typical neural patterns we see in the general population. LGBTQ+ diversity relates to sexual and gender identities, preferences, and expressions that are unlike the “normally” accepted sexual and gender identities in our society. These varying identities are, of course, perfectly natural as well. So I have been posed with the question: are these two areas of diversity interrelated or are we dealing with a specific intersecting identity?
Perhaps both, perhaps neither. Unfortunately there is not enough scientific evidence to present cold-hard facts in this article. I did however find some related information beyond the anecdotal experiences of my clients that suggested higher reports of non-heterosexality and non-gender-conformity among individuals with ASD as compared to the general population. *See bottom of article to read what I found*
NEURODIVERSITY AND QUEERNESS
So to some degree, there seems to be an overlap between neurodiversity and queerness. As we know, gender is a social construct. So there could be something behind the notion that a deficit or difference in social understanding could lead neurodivergent individuals to be less compliant or restricted to the sexual and gender roles enforced by their social environment. These individuals may not socialize into “normalized” sexual and gender identities and may even experience comfort in the LGBTQ+ community in which this nonconformity IS normalized.
HOW CAN THERAPY HELP?
Therapy can help clients under and outside this diversity umbrella by normalizing differences, validating experiences that have been brought on by this diversity, and educating clients so they can understand themselves or others (parents, friends, children, coworkers, etc.) better. Identity work can feel overwhelming to clients, but with the guidance of a supportive professional like a therapist, this work can be focused on the client’s values and paced at whatever rate feels viable. We also teach clients skills to help them regulate themselves when stressful experiences inevitably come up. And if you are like my clients, the issues you might want to explore and work through to enhance your life might not all have to do with neuro, gender, or sexual diversity, so there is always room to expand from this important aspect.
Clients who seek therapy at Heartland Therapy Connection can expect their needs and issues to be met with compassion and openness from our therapists. Clients will have the space to explore themselves and their experiences while keeping the goals and changes they want in life in mind. If you are ready to start this journey of self-discovery and making your life meaningful, then please do not hesitate to give us a call at 816-287-0252 and set up an appointment. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also offer free consultations to new clients who have any questions or concerns. I look forward to meeting you!
WE WELCOME YOUR FEEDBACK!
Does this sound like you? Is there something we are missing? Do you have scientific evidence and cold-hard facts we should know about? Let us know! We want to create an open space for discussion, observation, discernment, and enlightenment. Contact us by phone or email.
George, R., & Stokes, M. A. (2018). Sexual Orientation in Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism research : official journal of the International Society for Autism Research, 11(1), 133–141. https://doi.org/10.1002/aur.1892
Glidden, D., Bouman, W. P., Jones, B. A., & Arcelus, J. (2016). Gender Dysphoria and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Sexual medicine reviews, 4(1), 3–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sxmr.2015.10.003