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