ADHD impacts LGBTQ+ community members like anyone else, but compounds existing issues.


Anyone in the LGBTQ+ community understands how complicated life can be. From dealing with the coming out process to fighting for human rights, it can be a struggle every day to just exist. Plenty of factors play into this struggle, most of which are environmental; however, some of the less talked about complications are related to mental health. Intersectionality between mental health-related issues needs more attention in general such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is a fairly common condition marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. Here are three ways ADHD can complicate the lives of LGBTQ+ people.

1. Dual Stigma

white plastic toy on orange surface.

Fidget cube.

photo by Kreeson Naraidoo on Unsplash

Being gay, lesbian, trans, or anything else that falls under the LGBTQ+ umbrella is stigmatized to hell and back by conservatives all across the country—and worse in some other parts of the world. Stigma surrounds almost everything about the community: the way you talk, walk, and dress are judged constantly. How you act and how you present yourself in your identity is judged. People love boxes, and they love putting you in one even more. You can be ‘butch,’ ‘queer,’ fem,’ or plenty of other labels that those around you can use to categorize you.

In the same way, those who have ADHD often get put into similar boxes. You’re ‘fidgety,’ ‘spacey,’ or ‘lazy’ a lot of the time. Because of the stigma that revolves around both the LGBTQ+ community and mental health, the duality of identifying with both is an extremely difficult thing. It takes up a lot of mental space to constantly be judged by others, and it takes a lot to hold your head up while it’s happening.

Despite this, embracing these identities can also be extremely empowering. It is even relieving! You no longer have to feel compelled to go beyond yourself to ‘act normal’ and put in all that energy to be someone you aren't. And you have an answer to some of the really difficult problems you may have been facing! It is comforting to now know yourself even better and begin to cherish that side of yourself.

2. Work Is Even More Challenging

It is no secret that in the U.S., being in the LGBTQ+ community can greatly impact your work prospects. This is especially true depending on which region you live in and how you present yourself. Unfortunately, as mentioned previously, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding the LGBTQ+ community–so much so that laws are being passed to keep us out of certain parts of the workforce in various parts of the country.

Experiences trying to work as an out transgender man were complicated by being upfront about identity. A majority of interviews with potential employers have ended prematurely, to start. Not by coincidence either. They have ended right after being confronted about gender identity. And if there is even talk about disabilities, most will end after you say, "yes, I need accommodation for a disability," even if it is something as common as ADHD.

There is a little more protection for people with disabilities, but it is pretty sparse and can be difficult to document. Being open about your identity with an employer is a risk—more so if you identify in multiple categories that are stigmatized, such as being gay and having ADHD. The intersectionality of having ADHD and being in the LGBTQ+ community can heighten the risk of discrimination, not to mention the detrimental mental health effects of being the target of such.

Knowing that someone who holds that kind of power over you, in this case, the employer, may treat you unfairly because of your conditions or identity creates further awareness of the equality gap. ADHD can certainly impact your ability to perform a certain task at work, just as it can keep you from working at all. Having to juggle this mental battle while also being worried about how others perceive you is a huge burden and can weigh heavily on a person.

3. Fear of Rejection in ANOTHER Aspect of Life

young man with two thumbs down in front of his face.

LGBTQ+ people who are neurodivergent risk rejection for multiple factors of their identity.

Image by Luisella Planeta Leoni LOVE PEACE 💛💙 from Pixabay

Most people have a fear of rejection, but there are degrees. For some, it can pop up at various times, like on a first date, while for others, it can lurk over every situation they encounter. The extent to which most people feel this fear is usually intense but short-lived. For those of us who have multiple minority identities, the risk of rejection raises its ugly head more often, and there are more reasons to suspect it. It can create this omnipresent fear that never quite goes away, always lingering in the background or making itself heard in the foreground.

Dual stigma plays a huge role in how fear of rejection manifests itself and often shows up in areas of everyday life, such as work. However, it can also pop up in other situations. Maybe it urged you to break up with your significant other, perhaps to distance yourself from a once close friend—or potentially, you might have even been tempted to make a huge life-changing decision based on this fear. Whatever aspects of your life it affects, it is a constant presence. And that sucks.

Having to deal with all of the other worries that life throws at you is hard enough. Having to battle stigma and fight for human rights or equality, all while you carry this enormous mental load, telling you that nothing is ever going to go right, you’ll never be good enough, you’ll never receive the recognition you deserve, and you’ll certainly never live a happy life because of it all. Fearing rejection can manifest itself in anything and everything, at any time, and it can snowball into something much greater, sometimes making what it fears the reality by driving others away.

Yet, often for those within the LGBTQ+ community and neurodivergent people like those with ADHD, the reality is a lot closer than it should be. All of the stigma and stereotyping that goes on creates an atmosphere in which this fear thrives. And for a good reason: rejection is all too often something we face. Being rejected from jobs can be commonplace—not usually because you are underqualified but because of your openness to employers about your identity. It’s a crushing reality that needs to change.

Intersectionality

The intersectionality between those who identify as LGBTQ+ and those who have ADHD is a lot closer than most people think. And its effects are a lot greater than most would guess. However, this reality is not all bad. Yet, a lot of great things can come out of embracing your identities. You understand yourself much better to the point where you are grateful for knowing, embracing, and loving both. Knowing yourself and understanding yourself are two very different things, and to truly understand yourself, you must first accept yourself and all of what makes you who you are.

That is freeing. It is life-changing. It opens up completely different worlds. You gain a completely new perspective on what your life is. It’s a powerful and empowering thing to accept your identity, and despite the negative side effects, knowing yourself will make you happier than anyone else ever could.




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Mjolnir

Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.


Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.