Being autistic and navigating my sexuality
My sexuality has always been a confusing concept to me. Growing up, I was far more interested in my special interests than sex or relationships, and as I entered adolescence, the differences between myself and my peers became more noticeable.
While previously it had been acceptable to talk about Doctor Who and my collection of cereal boxes, my friends now wanted to discuss who they fancied and as the topics of conversation became more mature, I began to feel ashamed. I felt odd, embarrassed – what was wrong with me? The whole idea of wanting to ‘do’ something to someone was alien to me. I was frustrated that my brain didn’t work ‘right’.
I remember a conversation at a sleepover party when I was 15, the other girls gossiped about their various sexual encounters, and teased me for not knowing most of the terms they used. For whatever reason, be it lack of socialising or hyper focus on my own interests, I hadn’t picked up on these things. Moreover, I couldn’t comprehend casual relationships – they just didn’t make sense to me.
It was during my teenage years that I came across ‘asexuality’. I found it useful to define my sexuality this way for some time. However, I feel it is important to explain that my lack of experience in relationships and sexuality has been greatly impacted by my long struggle with an eating disorder. At the age of 22, I still have never begun my period, and lack the hormones to feel things quite like I perhaps should. I was also in hospital most of the time between the ages of 13 and 21. It would be easy to pin all of my sexuality woes on my eating disorder, but even during periods of recovery, I didn’t feel very different. If anything, I felt more ashamed of my lack of feelings, because I felt like I should be ‘normal’.
For a long time I hated myself for this, and actively searched for a ‘solution’. But through meeting people within the LGBT+ community, discovering music as a means of processing emotions and partly due to the growing awareness and acceptance of different sexualities, I have learnt that sexuality is a spectrum. Sexuality is diverse, and however I feel – however you feel – is okay. There is no normal! Be it because of autism, or otherwise (because let’s face it, who really knows why people feel things differently – who knows how anyone feels anything?), we are all different, and we all experience things in our own way. If it helps you to identify as a certain label, that’s great, but if you don’t know, I think that’s also okay.
LGBTQ+ month is an important time for me because I believe that we need to encourage honesty and openness about different sexualities. I am slowly learning about who I am, and currently I identify as bisexual, or at least, as attracted to boys and girls somewhat. I’m very lucky that the people around me are supportive and accepting – but I know of so many who were made to feel ashamed and to hate themselves by those around them. And despite the positive environment around me, feeling like I needed to hide who I was and that I was ‘wrong’ was still a big part of my mental health struggle. I hope that, with more acceptance and awareness, fewer people will feel that their sexuality is something to be ashamed about.
About the author
Saffron is on the Ambitious about Autism Youth Council, a final year Accounting student, budding artist and lover of science, maths and history.
Read another blog about struggling being gay by another Youth Network member.