Just when you thought your late diagnosis was the end of the road... You begin to discover *even* more about yourself. Suddenly you’re questioning almost everything, including your sexuality (which is completely normal).
After years of identifying as a particular sexuality (e.g. heterosexual/straight), it can come as a shock when new, conflicting feelings emerge (again, completely normal). Maybe you grew up without a single doubt, or maybe you’ve wondered in the past but brushed off any thoughts as hormonal curiosity. No matter how you felt growing up, a late diagnosis can easily trigger this switch in the mind.
Here are 5 reasons why you could be experiencing this...
You have always masked/copied those around you - has that extended to your sexuality?
Receiving a late diagnosis suggests that you were unaware of your ‘masking’ until later in life. Meaning you’ve spent a long time hiding your true self to fit in with society and the people around you, which can extend to the way you view your sexuality.
Thinking about the people around you, how many queer role models did you have growing up?
The answer is probably very few, as in the UK alone, there are 43.4 million people who identify as straight/heterosexual (aged 16 years and over).* That’s a whopping 89.4% (out of the 92% of the population who answered)!
Based on this, it’s easy to see how growing up in a hetero-dominant society could cloud your sexual identity as you try to fit in with the norm. Once you start to unmask after diagnosis, things can become a lot clearer.
You’re looking at yourself and your life through a new lens.
On your post-diagnosis journey, it can feel like the person you thought you were no longer exists. Suddenly you’re processing all of this new information about your brain: the way you think; the way you feel; the way you function; the way you communicate; and the way you exist in a neurotypical world.
As you discover more, you start to see everything through a new lens. Life can feel like it’s filled with new revelations, as you’re constantly left thinking, “Finally I understand why I do this/feel this way!”. This is no different when it comes to your sexuality. Just as you look at the world in a new way, it’s natural to look at it in a new light.
Crossover between the neurodivergent community and the queer community.
A huge 70-80% of neurodivergent people also identify as queer.** More specifically, autistic people are 3 to 6 times more likely to identify as queer than heterosexual.***
This large crossover can be explained by looking at the injustices, ableism and other challenges that both communities face. As a result, they’re both centred around and built on inclusion, acceptance, and creating a safe space for people to be themselves.
As you branch out and find like-minded, neurodivergent friends, it’s likely that you’ll also meet new people from the queer community. Going on your journey of self-discovery with these people is bound to stir up some new thoughts about your sexuality.
You realise that you have different needs that your past relationships might not have met.
You have a lot of unique needs as an autistic person, some of which require support and understanding from your partner. However, being diagnosed later in life suggests that your past relationships probably weren’t meeting these underlying needs.
Once you figure out what your needs are and how they need to be supported, it’s natural to spark the question, “Who is the best person to do this?”. The answer to this could be a different gender than you thought pre-diagnosis, which can be confusing at first but can also give you closure as to why previous relationships didn’t work out.
You realise that social constructs don’t matter to you in the same way/heteronormativity.
Autistic people often approach sexuality and heteronormativity (a construct implying that being straight is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality) in a way that differs from societal norms.
There are several factors that could influence this, such as you:
Valuing individuality and nonconformity
Struggling to pick up on social cues and norms
Focusing on factual information rather than social expectations
Having strong morality that disagrees with exclusivity and control.
Whilst you could have felt any of these things pe-diagnosis, due to the underlying autism, they could be heightened as you unmask. As a result, you might feel more comfortable expressing your sexuality and feel less pressure to conform to traditional sexual norms.
Regardless of *why* you’re questioning your sexuality, remember that you’re entitled to explore these feelings and change your sexual orientation. It’s also okay to be curious and decide that it was nothing more than that. Talking to friends and family about this might be difficult for you, and that’s why the (un)masked community is here to support you. Whatever journey you’re on, know that you aren’t alone!