Maxim shares his thoughts on the importance of neurodiverse acceptance in the LGBTQ+ community

After having only recently discovered this aspect of my intersectionality, the mysterious similarities between being LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse simply highlight the importance of neurodiverse acceptance within the LGBTQ+ community, in and out of the workplace. Even more so, according to recent studies, autistic people are more likely to identify as LGBTQ+ than their heterosexual counterparts furthering the need for inclusivity in our ever-evolving community.

Similarly, both groups (LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse) cast a rather wide net in terms of what they encapsulate. Gender diversity (other than the male/female binary) is captured within LGBTQ+ networks and kept out of most “gender” networks. Similarly, neurodivergence can be encapsulated within Disability networks. Further enhancing the stereotype that people think it’s a disability.

Neurodivergence still remains a taboo topic, clouded by stereotypes and prejudice. Managers need to be able to understand their teams as a whole and take into account the ways in which neurodiverse employees’ needs are met, on a case by case basis. There is no blueprint for working with an ADHD or autistic person, and it goes the same for raising a child who is neurodiverse. It is about the individual themselves and what they require to be able to work functionally and not just survive.

An autism diagnosis can be quite freeing as the information you are provided highlights what and how your neurodiverse brain can work in comparison to a neurotypical. Quite similar to coming out. Both of them certainly felt similar to me, but whereas coming out was a sense of pride and liberty, the neurodiverse diagnoses added a sense of acknowledgement and finally receiving something that meant I could understand how and why I operate the way I do.

Parallels between the LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse struggles mean that we hide who we are. We are conscious of who knows our sexuality, conscious of who knows about our neurodiversity. ‘Masking’ is a hard thing to do. Masking who you are in terms of sexuality or gender identity is exhausting, even more so with the additional conforming to the neurotypical atmosphere. It wouldn’t have to happen if we didn’t operate in exclusive environments, or environments that appear to be developing but realistically have a long sense of ‘tradition’. This mask is a constant pressure, from interviews to day to day work, the entire work lifecycle can be easily overwhelming for LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse individuals if we have to hide who we are, but a lot of us sit and play along wearing that mask. If the past two years taught us the relief of taking our masks off when we’re not around others, you can imagine the equal freedom of removing the hypothetical mask. It is not solely down to LINK and GAIN to change the system, it starts with everyone else too.

As most people who do not fit into the “norm”, neurodivergent people are often bullied, shunned, treated as outcasts, or are otherwise looked down upon as not equal with other human beings, a feeling all too familiar for the LGBTQ+ community. Organisations and market initiatives, such as GAIN, which I’m proud to be a part of too, really do the work in helping organisations understand how to help neurodiverse individuals. Further information and what we’re up to at GAIN can be found below: