First things first: This blog is not just about me.
This blog is about being autistic, and how that interacts with experiences of love, romance, sex, relationships, sexuality, gender and many other things in those fields that we are yet to uncover. It is my hope that this blog will host stories from many people, from many backgrounds with many different experiences. However, somebody had to start it off, so here I am.
My name is Tiffany. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (saying that because that was the term in use in the late 90s) when I was eight. I am a cisgender woman and probably heterosexual.
My experience of romance is possibly more than some people’s but certainly less than a lot of people’s at my stage in life. I did not date anyone at all until I took up online dating in my mid-twenties, and that did not work out well. I went on five or six dates with one man over a few months, and though it was nice, and safe, it was physically and emotionally draining in a way I have rarely experienced before or since. I’ll write more about that sometime, but not today. Then, three years later, I had one date which was again perfectly nice, but very draining, and I neither texted him back, nor did he text me. That didn’t disappoint me – it was clearly for the best – but I didn’t know what to do next.
This enduring lack of experience, combined with the fact I didn’t feel able to do more about it, combined with how tired it made me, combined with the good old patriarchy chestnut that a woman is worthless if a man doesn’t find her attractive, and the good old social assumption that everyone can find romance if they just try…all of this has been an oppressive weight on my shoulders for about fifteen years.
So why blog about it now?
I went into 2019 with a determination to improve my life. I applied for a Master’s (and got on it) and started making a bit more of an effort to meet somebody. Apps and so on. And I had a date which felt different: it was positive. When it was all over, I did not even want to cover myself in blankets and play distracting video games like a convalescent. But I had questions, as you do, and I went on Google, as you do, and I searched for something like “dating advice autism”.
The results were by and large a bitter disappointment. Most websites were not by or for autistic people, only about us – not just for our neurotypical partners, but for our parents, for professionals, and, most depressing of all, the curious general public.
Here is a quote that particularly set me off. Look away if you don’t want to get angry:
“The woman [with Asperger’s] social immaturity may be appealing to those men who have natural paternal and compassionate qualities.”
The thought that there was no hope for me but that a man might pity me enough to accept me as a wife/daughter hybrid was extremely upsetting, and I spent most of the rest of the evening and the following day in a fog of despair and rage.
Much of the “advice” on offer was also heterocentric and ciscentric. The assumption was that autistic men act like so, and autistic women act like so, and both want a relationship with the opposite sex. This can be explained by regular homophobia and cissexism, whereby cisgender heterosexuals forget that LGBTQ people exist, but I felt there was an ableist element to it as well. Like sexuality and gender identity was not something you as an autistic person discovered within yourself, but only wanted to imitate from other people, like “Oh bless her! She wants a partner! She must have seen that on TV!”.
We know that these assumptions are emphatically wrong. Though both autism and LGBTQ experiences have historically been under-researched and misunderstood, research has indicated that a higher proportion of autistic people are not heterosexual, and not cisgender, than corresponding proportions in the neurotypical population,,. I point this out to emphasise how very ridiculous it is to assume that all autistic people are straight and cis, but even if the proportion of LGBTQ people on the autistic spectrum were the same as for the neurotypical population, or smaller, it would be no less important for autistic LGBTQ people to have a voice.
That’s why I wanted to start this blog. Sexuality, gender, love and relationships are huge parts of our lives and the social expectations around them are immense. They can cause us extraordinary pain, but, at other times, can be sources of joy, creativity, self-expression and of course, wonderful connections with other people. Humanity has written millions of words about the experience of these things and is still not done yet, and I know for sure that not enough of those words have been about what happens when you have to deal with these things while autistic.
I shared the idea for this blog with friends in the Oxford Autism Experience Group, of which I was a member until it folded due to lack of funding in early 2020. Their support has given me the confidence to take the step of setting up this blog.
I don’t want this blog to be about me. I want it to be about us. About you. Maybe you have struggled to make any sexual or romantic connections in your life. Maybe you’re married. Maybe you’ve had a few partners in your life. Maybe you have a few partners now.
Whoever you are and wherever you’re at, I hope you also feel supported and listened to when you read this blog. Let’s start telling our stories.
 Moreno, S., Wheeler, M. and Parkinson, K. (2012). The partner’s guide to Asperger Syndrome. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, p.13.
 George, R. and Stokes, M.A. (2018) ‘Sexual Orientation in Autism Spectrum Disorder’, Autism Research, 11(1), pp. 133-141. doi: 10.1002/aur.1892.
 van der Miesen, Anna I. R., Cohen-Kettenis, P. and de Vries, Annelou L. C. (2018) ‘Is There a Link Between Gender Dysphoria and Autism Spectrum Disorder?’, Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 57(11), pp. 884-885. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2018.04.022.
 Van Der Miesen, Anna I. R., Hurley, H. and De Vries, Annelou L. C. (2016) ‘Gender dysphoria and autism spectrum disorder: A narrative review’, International Review of Psychiatry, 28(1), pp. 70-80. doi: 10.3109/09540261.2015.1111199.