Finding love is hard for any of us, but being neuroatypical adds a layer of complexity that can make romance feel like an impossible goal.
This week on Reddit, a user on the autistic spectrum shared his concerns about finding a boyfriend.
“I was recently diagnosed with Aspergers—does this mean my love life’s over?” asked Zac1292. “Could a gay guy fall in love with someone who has a mental disability?”
In 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 2% of the global population had some form of autism. If you believe the data that 3.5% of people are LGBT, then we’re looking at some five million people worldwide who fall under the “double rainbow.” There’s a growing body of evidence linking autism and gender dysphoria, but little research has been done to examine the romantic life of people on the spectrum.
The responses to Zac’s query, though, were generally positive.
“I’m living testament that it happens,” wrote one man. “My boyfriend liked me just fine, and that was before I even knew I was autistic.
“I have Asperger’s and have had many relationships,” added another. “Your love life is definitely not over.”
A number of commenters were diagnosed with Asperger’s—or were dating someone who was. Some said they found LGBT people to be more patient and open, since they knew what it meant to be “different.” But it helps if you have friends to lend a hand.
“I also have Asperger’s and met a girl a few weeks ago,” one woman explained. “I’m not very good at cues or gaydar so I just got lucky friends took me aside and told me ’she likes you, and she’s gay. Make a move’ when I said I liked a mutual friend but wasn’t sure if us getting along well was just friendliness.”
“It’s possible,” she added. “I’d encourage you not to focus on your Asperger’s because you don’t need more self-consciousness if you’re trying to meet guys.”
Of course it’s no cakewalk: Dating is all about picking up social cues, something people with Asperger’s have a particularly hard time with. “I don’t really look autistic but I still have an incredibly difficult time in areas that you can’t see and won’t see unless you’re with me,” confessed one user.
“I have a really hard time with certain textures that you’ll have to work with if we’re together. There will be times where cuddling just isn’t a possibility because touch is overwhelming, and I may not be able to sleep in the same bed every day as a result. There will be times where I shut down or melt down over silly stuff and will need support. I don’t even typically let my parents see me like that, but I’d be entrusting my partner with seeing that and being mature and loving about it.”
Then there was the simple response that, honestly, is true whether you’re on the spectrum or not: “Having Asperger’s doesn’t make you unlovable unless you’re a dick.”