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Being LGBTIQA+ and autistic

Key points

  • LGBTIQA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer, Asexual - and other sexual orientations and gender identities that are not straight and/or cisgender.
  • In Australia, discriminating against someone because they are LGBTIQA+ is against the law.
  • If you experience discrimination, there are a number of services that can help you, including KidsHelplineeHeadspace, LifelineQLife and the Australian Human Rights Commission

What does LGBTIQA+ mean?

LGBTIQA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer, Asexual - and other sexual orientations and gender identities that are not straight and/or cisgender.

It's estimated that at least up to 11% of people in Australia identify as LGBTIQA+ - and that doesn't include people who are currently questioning their sexual orientation or gender (KidsHelpline 2019).

How many people are autistic and LGBTIQA+?

Studies are still limited, but emerging research shows that autistic people are actually more likely to identify as LGBTIQA+ than the general population! One study showed that 70% of autistic respondents identified as non-heterosexual (George R. and M.A. Stokes 2018); another study showed that 11.4% of autistic adults wished they were 'the opposite sex', which was more than double the rate of the general population surveyed (Van der Miesen A. et al. 2018).

What are my rights at school and work if I'm LGBTIQA+?

Just as it's your right to not experience harassment or discrimination at school or work for being autistic, it's also your right not to experience harassment or discrimination if you're LGBTIQA+. Every state in Australia has its own laws to protect LGBTIQA+ people from discrimination, but our national law is called the Sex Discrimination Act. This means that discriminating against someone because they are LGBTIQA+ is against the law.

Discrimination can take a lot of different forms, including:

  • Bullying or excluding you based on your gender identity, sexual orientation or intersex status
  • Asking you inappropriate questions about your gender identity, sexual orientation or intersex status
  • 'Outing' you by telling someone else your sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status without your permission
  • Using the wrong pronouns or name for you after you've explained what name and pronouns you like others to use for you
  • Not allowing you to use the bathroom that best fits you and your gender identity

What do I do if I experience discrimination at school or work?

If you experience discrimination, it's important to remember that you're not alone, and that you deserve to be able to go to school and work while feeling safe and supported. If someone discriminates against you, you can talk to the person, but you might not feel safe doing so. If that's the case, you have different options if you experience discrimination, including:

  • Calling a counselling service such as KidsHelpline. eHeadspace, Lifeline or QLife if you feel upset and need to talk
  • Talking to and getting support from people you trust - this could be a family member, friend, teacher, manager or your HR department
  • Make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission - particularly if your school or work is unwilling to help
  • Call the police - particularly if the situation feels unsafe. If it's an emergency you can call 000; otherwise, you can call the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 for advice

More info and resources

Some great resources on being LGBTIQA+ include:

  • LGBTIQA+: The Ultimate Dictionary - A list of different terms used by the LGBTIQA+ community provided by KidsHelpline
  • Sexual Identity - A guide to sexuality and different attractions and relationships provided by KidsHelpline
  • Gender Identity - A guide to gender identity provided by KidsHelpline
  • LGBTQIA+ Support Services - A list of LGBTQIA+ support services both local and national compiled by Reach Out
  • QLife's Referral Database - A list of services and information to help LGBTIQA+ included crisus support, information on events, health and legal services, and more hosted by QLife

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KidsHelpline 2019, accessed 3 April 2020, <https://kidshelpline.com.au/young-adults/issues/sexual-identity>

George R. and M.A. Stokes Autism Res. 11, 133-141 (2018) PubMed

Van der Miesen A. et al. Arch. Sex. Behav. Epub ahead of print (2018) PubMed

myWAY Employability is an initiative of the Autism CRC, which receives funding from the Australian Government

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