Mar 11, 2021
Episode 80: LGBTQ In the Autism Community With Guest Danielle Sullivan
In this episode, Danielle Sullivan discusses the gender and sexuality spectrum in the autism community. LGBTQ is very common in the autism community. There is also a high number of individuals who are autistic in the LGBTQ community. Individuals in the LGBTQ community have a higher likelihood of depression, anxiety, and suicidality as are individuals who are autistic. Therefore, support is really important. Start talking to your children about gender early. Start talking with young children about pronouns and demonstrate use of pronouns respectfully in daily life. Identify people you don’t know with “they.” Show that you get to decide your own gender and pronouns. Use the pronouns people ask you to use for them. Talk about how different bodies are different. Read books to the kids about conception and birth that are not gendered. Let them know that just because a body looks a certain way, we can’t assume that we know the status of the body’s reproductive organs. Read diverse books and watch diverse TV. Remember, you will not hurt your child by talking to them about sex. The more familiar they are with their body, the less likely they will experience sexual assault. Sex education is important. Start it at home at an age appropriate level. Don’t depend on school sex ed.
To support your child in coming out, know your location (state/country) and if it safe. Show your child that you know they are valid and you see them and you know them and one day it will be safe to come out. If your child is one of the first trans kids in their school to come out, consider going into the school and talking to the teacher and principal ahead of time to tell them about their pronouns and answer any questions they have. Provide them with a list of commonly asked questions and ways they can answer them, if other children have questions. Consider doing an informative presentation with your child in their class. Find support groups online. Find LGBTQ friends for your children.
In her experience, most kids disclose easily to their friends, with relatively little difficulty. Talk with your child that fitting in may not be the goals, but rather being your authentic self may be their goal. Children may even already have a friend who has come out. For younger kids, just reassure them that they are loved and supported. A friend will be your friend regardless of what you are dressed in or wearing makeup and if not, they are bad friends. A friend supports you and is there for you.
For coming out to family, the child’s joy and wellbeing may be more important to you than what family members think, or their opinions. Family are grownups and are responsible for themselves. You are the parent and are responsible for your child’s wellbeing. It is your job as a parent to support your child. If a child’s gender and sexuality are not being authenticated, suicide rates rise. It is your job as a parent to inform your child that there is nothing wrong with them. They are celebrated for who they are. Anyone who has a problem with that, is the problem.
To support your children, listen to them. Get them in groups with other autistic peers and/or support or friends group with other LGBTQ children. Local autism society chapters often have peer social groups for children and teens. Ask other parents where they are getting their support. Consider therapists for autistic LBGTQ support.
To reduce transphobia and homophobia in the community, try to get the school library to have LGBTQ resources in it, see if the school can celebrate LGBTQ holidays. Ensure that the school is offering disciplinary behavior to exclusionary or discriminatory teachers. Get support from other parents and group up to make your voices heard. As far as therapists, they are supposed to be supporting your child. If they are homophobic, they are actively harming your child. It is helpful to decide if the therapy they are doing is worth the damage there are doing to your child.
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