Let's Go There: Being Autistic in the LGBTQ+ Community

It's World Autisim Day

April 3, 2019


It’s World Autism Day and it deserves a special YASSS Queen! We’re chatting with the Director of Operations at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Zoe Gross about the intersectionality of being Autistic in the LGBTQ+ community! If you want to know more about ASAN, follow them here!

Transcript of Interview!

Ryan Mitchell [00:00:00> All right. So it is time for you as queen. You know that's my favorite. I just love the extra syllable and. So it is World Autism Day and we're chatting with the director of operations at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Zoe gross about what what it means to be autistic in the LGBTQ community and like Welcome to the show. Zoe thank you so much for having me. Yeah. Thank you. No honestly thank you. This is a special day. We were briefly talking before we went live and I wanted to chat about this because this really means something to me because I grew up my mother's best friend sign is actually autistic. And so I grew up in that experience of kind of learning how to navigate and dealing with I guess autism and what that really means in that space. And so I you immediately jumped out this organization did Oh I'm so glad. So tell us what actually tell us about the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. What do you guys do. 


Zoe Gross [00:00:59> So we're a policy advocacy organization and we are run by autistic people so a lot of people doing work in the autism advocacy space. 


Zoe Gross [00:01:08> Some of the organizations it's people who aren't autistic that say they speak for the autistic community but the autistic community can speak for ourselves. 


Zoe Gross [00:01:16> So yeah we get people together and we represent people with all kinds of abilities and disabilities people who speak people who don't speak people who live independently people who don't all are on our board and our staff and we do mostly policy advocacy. We also do grassroots advocacy. We pretty sort of resources to make policy issues more accessible to people with intellectual developmental disabilities through leadership training for college students on the autism spectrum. 


Jarrett Hill [00:01:45> I think that's really really helped me. It's amazing. Yeah this is Jarrett jumping in here. I love that when I saw the name of this the Autistic Self Advocacy Network talk to me about the feedback that you got from from just the name because I always see advocacy advocacy with autism that comes from the parents of children or or something like that but I saw the name and I was like wow that's that's so interesting I never even thought about the self advocacy part of the autistic experience. 


Zoe Gross [00:02:11> Well so first of all big props to you for getting meaning right in your intro because a lot of people even sometimes on purpose still say it autism Self Advocacy Network because saying the word autistic makes them really uncomfortable when I see her disrespectful. 


 [00:02:24> That's an interesting distinction. Yeah. 


Zoe Gross [00:02:26> Yeah that's because they were taught that like it's disrespectful you have as a person with autism because otherwise they'll forget that we're people you have to really like front load. That's a person before you say other things. And there's some communities that really prefer that kind of a way of talking about it like people with intellectual disabilities really strongly prefer a person first language. So we use that for that community but for the artistic community. So a lot of us just the autism is like it doesn't need to be stigmatized or set apart in any way it's part of who we are. So just like I wouldn't say I'm a woman with lesbian this I would just say I'm a lesbian. 


 [00:02:59> I would also say I'm an autistic person. I think I like the word, lesbian. Yes. 


Ryan Mitchell [00:03:05> That's really cute and I'm coining it. You're right now. Let's go. 


Zoe Gross [00:03:09> Is it lesbians or lesbian -a- tee


Jarrett Hill [00:03:13> I always called. I was like Les biotic but I always thought that was just. That's good I like that. 


Ryan Mitchell [00:03:20> Let's dive into you because obviously they're you know autism and being LGBTQ. They it seems like because we found out we're looking this up there was actually kind of intersectionality there where there are people that you know identify as LGBTQ plus they also are dealing with being autistic in today's society. Let's talk a little bit about that. 


Zoe Gross [00:03:41> This is something that a lot of people don't know it's very common for autistic people to also be LGBT autistic people are more likely to be transgender. We're more likely to be gay or bisexual or lesbian. We're more likely to identify as asexual or as non-binary you know today as and most of our staff are clear and trans so this is a pretty regular part of the autistic experience that's high. 


Ryan Mitchell [00:04:04> Are they single. I don't discriminate. I'm always looking for anyone. 


Zoe Gross [00:04:11> Yeah. 


Zoe Gross [00:04:11> So I think like in every person's experience of the LGBT community is different. But for a lot of autistic people that's been a great place to find a community that that isn't as judgmental sometimes. 


Jarrett Hill [00:04:24> I always think of myself as pretty progressive but like this is an intersection I just never even thought about right. And so I'm just really excited to be conversing with you about this. I'm fascinated by some of the data that we have here. I did a story a long time ago on autistic children and like the the likelihood of being autistic being higher depending on where you live and all this and we see that there's like a greater likelihood of being autistic if you live in Utah versus if you live in other places and then you said that there is a higher propensity of being LGBTQ if you're autistic. Is there have they ever figured out what those correlations are or why that is. 


Zoe Gross [00:04:59> I'm not exactly. There's people are kicking around a lot of thought and one is just that autistic people may have missed some of the like social messages that keep people from realizing he's thinking like I wonder that it's like a social. 


Zoe Gross [00:05:14> Yeah for sure for sure. There's also like there's some theories about exposure to testosterone in the womb that people think might be related to both sexuality gender and autism. But like that's one of the things that has been kicked around is not as in causation theory it hasn't got much purchase. 


Ryan Mitchell [00:05:31> One thing that even we have here as well that kind of that goes into that explanation of like the correlation between what Jim was just talking about a lot of times I like this they're saying people with autism caring less they're caring less about what society thinks of them and therefore they just more likely are to identify as LGBTQ rights which I'm like. That's amazing. I rather like had that kind of explanation than there needing to be any kind of data for it. Yeah. Yeah. 


Zoe Gross [00:05:59> I think for a lot of people that is their experience that you know like being autistic. We're pretty used to like what feels right to us and what feels authentic to us people telling us that's not the right way to do something. And you know like I might say it is the right way for me to do something for me to slap my hands when I'm walking on the street because it helps me process information or like you know it is the right thing for me to not stay in this loud party or it is the right thing for me to date this girl like for some of us it's we're used to having to find ways to do things differently and just like knowing what works for us. 


Ryan Mitchell [00:06:37> So how is the experience when it comes to dating and especially in that with the intersectionality in the LGBTQ community there can seem to be some exclusion even though it feels like you know the community can be a place where we all call home but depending on if it doesn't fit into you society's norms are behavior norms can it can it be difficult to date while being autistic. 


Zoe Gross [00:07:01> Yeah for sure and everyone's experience is different but something a lot of people have experienced just like challenges with the traditional sort of flirting or the traditional way that people are supposed to interact in relationships. 


 [00:07:13> There's a lot of guesswork like you know that stereotypical argument couple of times where someone is mad at another person's like why are you mad in a mad person is like if you don't know why I'm mad I'm not going to tell you I'm mad. 


 [00:07:23> You know what. 


Zoe Gross [00:07:25> You know if one of those people is autistic person they can't. Like there's no way to figure out why the other prisoners mad that the guesswork the mind reading is stuff that even as much as normal people or sorry. Very typical people have difficulty with that in normal circumstances like it's something that we really struggle with. And it doesn't mean that we don't care. It's just that there's some sort of like magic signals that people normally send to each other that we don't detect those contacts. Yeah but yeah but the good news is as clear people were already in a really good position to rethink these relationship forums and question whether they really work for us. The idea that relationships have to be based on guesswork is sort of part of this stereotypical idea of how men and women interact. But like really good relationship is straight and men and women shouldn't understand each other and therefore in a good relationship people shouldn't understand each other. And I think a lot of queer people already reject those ideas. 


 [00:08:24> So you know we can reject them in the ways that autistic people reject those ideas as well. 

Ryan Mitchell [00:08:29> And I honestly love that. Like just to kind of wrap this up because we know you're probably busy doing some amazing work. What is a day like this on World Autism Day what does that mean for you and your organization. 


Zoe Gross [00:08:43> Oh my goodness. So really exciting thing is that our community engagement coordinator Noor Parvez who's just a superstar and Finn Gardner who does policy work for us to autistics is and stuff I spoke at theU.N. today. So that was fantastic. 


 [00:08:59> Just want to stop now. Congrats. That's amazing yeah. 


Zoe Gross [00:09:03> You know they do fantastic work but for a lot of people, today is hard. It's a struggle because the way people talk about autism on the on World Autism Day is generally not positive. It's often very much like be aware a lot of people are autistic and that's scary and it'll be a burden on our society and their parents are sad and that's not how we like to talk about ourselves. 


 [00:09:24> Yeah. We could it could be a hard day to get through. 


 Ryan Mitchell [00:09:27> Well I'm very I'm looking forward to seeing just you guys doing more work and I'm so honored to have had you on the show today to talk about that in their sexuality when it comes to being a part of the queer community and autistic. Thank you so much Zoe grass for joining us. That's an interesting conversation. Yeah.