Embracing Neurodivergence and LGBTQ+ Identity: The Similarities and Struggles of Two Communities
“It takes tremendous courage to be honest and true to yourself.”
As mentioned by Dr. Debasish Mridha, an American physician and philosopher, suffering from pain, experiencing sleepless nights and restless days are very common for people who pretend as somebody else and hide their true identities.
This is very relevant to people diagnosed with neurodiverse conditions and members of the LGBTQ community as they struggle in coming out and fear public criticism. Although there are more serious and unfortunate cases of rejection or disapproval in the LGBTQ community, the uncertainty of being accepted and given equal opportunities are still the main issues that must be addressed for both parties.
According to an article published by Disabled World, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults showed a higher prevalence of learning difference than their heterosexual counterparts. In fact, among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults, 30% of men and 36% of women have it. These numbers are concerning yet there are not enough research focusing on this case. Moreover, there are many members of the LGBTQ community who are afraid to speak up about the learning difference they have because this will only lead to more painful experiences or bullying.
Eric Ascher, member of the LGBTQ community and is on the Autism spectrum, shared that he was bullied in school as early as eight grade. When he reached high school, he realized that he is gay but was at first afraid to come out and join a club that supports people like him. “I was afraid to be seen as gay because I already was being bullied for my general social awkwardness, and I knew being “the gay kid” could only worsen my situation. This is a horrible thing to admit, because no child deserves to feel intimidated because of his disability or her sexuality. No child deserves to feel intimidated for any reason at all. But I felt intimidated.”
The sad truth is LGBTQ community and Neurodiversity or how a person’s brain functions, learns and processes information differently than others, remain taboo topics in many societies. People who belong in these groups continue to be labeled as “others” and suffer from conformity pressure for the sake of protecting themselves against possible violence or abuse. They do not have enough strength to be true to themselves because most of the time, their thoughts and feelings are invalidated by individuals who should supposedly support them and encourage them to come out.
A story that was featured on Academy LGBTQ 2019 sheds light on how a learning difference like dyslexia can be somehow similar to coming out as a part of the LGBTQ group. The contributor shared that her father’s struggle when he was still young, where adults repeatedly told him that the unusual way he saw letters and words was wrong, led her to easily understand and accept her middle child when she admitted that she had a girl’s heart and soul. “I was looking at her sweet, innocent face while she was trying to explain her innermost feelings and sense of self and I flashed to the memories my Dad had shared. When my Dad tried to explain his lived experience, no one believed him. No one took him seriously. No one knew what he was trying to tell them and no one knew he was right.” Regardless if these people are being honest about gender identity or learning difference, the point is that society should treat them with respect because they are bravely speaking about their brain, heart and soul.
Both groups are facing barriers and discrimination from both fronts and this is really the biggest issue. These people are more likely to continue becoming the subjects of stigma and discrimination, and suffer other painful experiences such as being unemployed, living in poverty, becoming homeless, being bullied, and many more - all because they are deprived of the rights, love and respect they truly deserve.
If these people continue to suffer, their mental health will surely be among the first aspects to be negatively impacted which could lead to undesirable actions. According to Canadian Mental Health Association, socio-economic factors play a very important role in mental health and wellbeing of an individual. In order to have a positive mental health and wellbeing, three significant determinants must be present: social inclusion; freedom from discrimination and violence; and access to economic resources. Unfortunately, these determinants are not that easy for LGBTQ and Neurodivergent communities to achieve as they are continuously being discriminated against and often treated as outcasts.
Stop the Hate and Embrace Diversity
LGTBQ and Neurodivergent communities consist of smart, highly creative, talented, witty and loving individuals. Their uniqueness is what makes each one of them really special and their diverse minds bring a lot of advantages to the organization where they are involved; all they need is a chance to be fully supported and a right platform to show that they are also capable of doing great things.
It is really necessary that when members of society decide to support these groups, they are being consistent and they really show up for them, just like in LGTBQ movements. The solidarity should not only be present in social media where the workplace or organization claims to be LGBTQ-friendly or disabled-friendly.
Society must start letting these people feel that they are valued. Society should start showing them that they are truly respected. These amazing people deserve to experience having genuine relationships with others. They need more safe individuals whom they can rely on and will help them raise awareness that LGBTQ and Neurodivergent communities are also people and they need to be embraced as they also play a significant role in society.
So, let us stop the hate and just open our hearts and minds to the reality that despite our differences, we can and we should still love and support one another.
Ascher, E. (2018). Gay and on the Autism Spectrum: My Experience Growing Up in the Closet. https://www.respectability.org/2018/06/ericascherlgbtq/
Ascher, E. (2018). More Than One-Third of LGBTQ Adults Identify as Having a Disability. https://www.respectability.org/2018/06/lgbt-pride-month-2018/
Canadian Mental Health Association (2019). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Queer identified People and Mental Health. https://ontario.cmha.ca/documents/lesbian-gay-bisexual-trans-queer-identified-people-and-mental-health/
Center for American Progress (2015). Disability Justice Is LGBT Justice: A Conversation with Movement Leaders. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbtq-rights/news/2015/07/30/118531/disability-justice-is-lgbt-justice-a-conversation-with-movement-leaders/
Houdart, F. (2020). Why neurodivergence is also an LGBTQ+ topic. https://outleadership.com/insights/why-neurodivergence-is-also-an-lgbtq-topic/
How My Dad’s Dyslexia Helped Me Understand My Transgender Daughter (2019). Academy LGBTQ. https://www.academylgbtq.com/how-my-dads-dyslexia-helped-me-understand-my-transgender-daughter/
Neurodiversity at work. (2019). Health Assured. https://www.healthassured.org/blog/neurodiversity/
What Is: Neurodiversity, Neurodivergent, Neurotypical (2021). Disabled World. https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/awareness/neurodiversity/
LEXIA LEARNERS LOUNGE
Jess Arce is a homeschool mom of four, a tutor for children & adults who struggle with Dyslexia & Dysgraphia and an all around entrepreneur. She is passionate about helping others understand dyslexia.