3 ways ADHD & Queerness Compound Challenges

The 3 double whammies of being queer and having ADHD, along with our path from coping to acceptance.

Ever heard of 1 + 1 = 3? Well, when it comes to the combination of 'Queer' and 'Neurodiverse,' it's definitely more than just the sum of its parts. Let's dive into the top ways in which ADHD and queerness compound each other. Remember, everyone's experience is unique, so if you have a different story, I'd love to hear it!

3 ways ADHD and Queerness compound challenges

Double stigma

Being both ADHD and queer means facing a heightened level of discrimination and prejudice. Society attaches misconceptions and stereotypes to both identities, labeling people with ADHD as lazy, unintelligent, and rude due to attention and impulsivity issues, while queer individuals encounter homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination based on their sexual or gender identity. These layers of stigma intensify the challenges we face, as we navigate a world that misunderstands and marginalizes us, taking a toll on our mental well-being and self-esteem.

Double difference

Neurodiverse individuals are often accustomed to being the “odd ball”, the “sore thumb”, or the “weird one”, the ones who dress, think, feel, and speak differently. Similarly, being queer means existing outside of the traditional binary norms of sexual orientation and gender identity. Living on the other side of societal expectations in not just one but two ways can be exhausting and confusing, especially during formative years. Without understanding, acceptance, and empowerment from those around us, we may be left feeling inadequate or "wrong." It can also be challenging to differentiate whether certain experiences or traits stem from queerness or ADHD, which can hinder accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Double ‘coming out’

Being queer and neurodiverse means that in every interaction, we're faced with the decision of whether to come out as queer (”do I come out to them? Tell them I’m queer?”) and disclose our ADHD (“do I disclose? Tell them I have ADHD?”). These choices carry anxieties, insecurities, and the potential for judgment and discrimination, and just general brain power exertion that takes a toll on your day. It's particularly challenging for those with invisible disabilities and queerness, like myself, as our identities may not be immediately apparent. E.g. if someone looks at me, I am “straight-passing”, and my ADHD is invisible. The constant thought of double 'coming out' is ever-present and can loom over our heads.

How we can move from coping to thriving

Navigating this intersection of queerness and ADHD can be an arduous journey marked by double stigma, double difference and double ‘coming out’, and it’s incredibly important to understand the challenges and raise awareness to even begin thinking about positive change. Today, I’d like to share a brief bit on how I’m on an active journey to move from coping to thriving by embracing my dual identity positively, and how you can incorporate similar thinking into your life.

I'm on a personal journey from mere coping to thriving by embracing my dual identity positively: I came out in 2018 and was diagnosed with ADHD in 2022, and while the journey is ongoing, I've had the privilege of working with incredible coaches, receiving support from amazing coworkers and friends, and connecting with extraordinary communities of queer and neurodiverse individuals. Over the years, I've been rewriting my own narrative, celebrating my colorful, passionate, and energized self. Today, I can confidently say that I love being queer and I love my ADHD because they make me who I am. In addition, I do recognize that this progress takes a tremendous amount of effort, privilege, opportunity, and luck—however, I do whole-heartedly believe that you can achieve it too.

The world needs diversity, uniqueness, and individuals who break down long-standing barriers that no longer serve us. Embracing differences, fostering understanding and connection, sharing our stories, and celebrating one another is the path forward. Together, we can create a more inclusive and accepting world.

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