“My whole life has been a process of finding labels that fit”: A Thematic Analysis of Autistic LGBTQIA+ Identity and Inclusion in the LGBTQIA+ Community



McAuliffe C, Walsh RJ & Cage E (2022) “My whole life has been a process of finding labels that fit”: A Thematic Analysis of Autistic LGBTQIA+ Identity and Inclusion in the LGBTQIA+ Community. Autism in Adulthood.

Background: Being nonheterosexual and noncisgender appears to be more common among autistic people. This intersection of identities is often stigmatized in research and society. However, we know that community involvement can protect against negative mental health outcomes associated with being a minority; researchers found this effect in separate studies examining participation in the autistic and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual plus other gender and sexual orientation-based identity (LGBTQIA+) communities. This study examined how autistic LGBTQIA+ individuals navigate their multiple marginalized identities and the LGBTQIA+ community. Methods: Twelve autistic LGBTQIA+ people from the United Kingdom took part in semistructured interviews. Questions focused on identity and community. We analyzed the interviews using reflexive thematic analysis. Results: We identified four overarching themes—Identity (Re)Development, Navigating Authenticity, Exclusion from Community Spaces, and Creating Change. Participants viewed accessing a community of similar others as a means of increasing understanding, self-knowledge, and self-acceptance. We identified several barriers to inclusion, including accessibility and gatekeeping. Participants discussed strategies to combat these obstacles, such as the creation of intersectional community spaces and activism and representation as a means of increasing autism understanding. Conclusions: This study suggests that similar to other marginalized groups, autistic LGBTQIA+ individuals are motivated to engage in communities relevant to their identities. However, community spaces for autistic LGBTQIA+ are often inaccessible due to social, sensory, and identity-based barriers. Participants highlighted autism understanding as a barrier to coming out both in community and noncommunity settings. This suggests that improving autism acceptance and understanding is crucial to achieve accessible, intersectional, and inclusive community spaces.

autism; LGBTQIA; community; identity; inclusion; accessibility

Output Status: Forthcoming/Available Online

Autism in Adulthood

StatusIn Press
Publication date online07/07/2022
Date accepted by journal28/05/2022
PublisherMary Ann Liebert Inc

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Dr Eilidh Cage
Dr Eilidh Cage

Lecturer in Psychology, Psychology