‘I had a sensory overload which meant that we broke up’: the challenges of autism in LGBT+ relationships
A drag king and a trans artist explain how having autism spectrum disorder has shaped their relationships.
Drag king Powdered sugar is now happily in a two-year relationship with someone who displays neurodivergent traits however navigating relationships with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) hasn’t always been plain sailing for the drag performer, they said, ‘there was one incident in a past relationship where we were planning to have sex but I got a sensory overload which eventually meant that we broke up’.
Processing sensory information like this can be a challenge for people on the spectrum. Any of their senses may be over- or under-sensitive, or both, at different times.
Multidisciplinary artist, Chuck SJ spend most of their adult life unaware that they had autism. They stated, ‘it affects my romantic relationships when something bad happens. I had a breakup recently and I’ve not handled it very well at all and I think a lot of that is to do with autism’.
Learning to overcome problems in relationships
Since getting a diagnosis five years ago, Chuck has found it easier to understand certain feelings. They said, ‘I understand myself better now. I no longer think I’m being attention-seeking and dramatic which took a long time to unpack. I can now be like ‘oh this is a sudden change’ so I understand that when I feel an extreme amount of emotions that’s the way I am as opposed to thinking it's something I purposely do to create chaos’.
Powdered Sugar has also found ways of communication which work in their relationship. They said, ‘I have learned to use hand gestures and safe words’.
Powdered Sugar and Chuck SJ are learning to understand themselves however this process would have been easier if they were equipped with educational tools relating to autism and relationships from a young age.
LGBT+ charity Just Like Us is fighting to change this by promoting improved educational tools surrounding LGBT+ relationships. The charity aims to see a future wherein fewer people with ASD will face problems during their relationships.
Dominic Arnall, the Chief Executive of Just Like Us states that the charity aims ‘to spend the next five years ensuring that everyone has access to LGBT+ inclusive resources that meet their needs and the needs of their pupils.’
There is a misconception that people with ASD and other disabilities are unable to partake in romantic relationships. Arnall, stated that this myth, ‘actually underestimates young people’s agency. Just because someone is autistic doesn't mean they can't also be LGBT+.’
The misconception is something that Powdered Sugar is fighting to change. They said that, ‘disabled people can consent to relationships, it may look different but they are still able to consent’.
Join Powdered Sugar on 3rd August at The Glory for the Top of the Slops pageant. Buy tickets here.
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