Brain Health

ADHD and Queerness: Living in the Neuroqueer Intersection

Neuroqueer individuals, those who are both neurodivergent and queer, experience challenges with ableism and homophobia that are unique to the intersection they inhabit — here, ADDitude readers share their experiences and stories.

Multicolored heads of people with ADHD that can be healed using Dr. Amen's techniques
Multicolored rainbow spectrum heads

Neuroqueer is a relatively new term used to describe individuals who are neurodivergent and queer, and to address a truth that many ADDitude readers already know — that the two identities aren’t separate. In a society where both are marginalized, those living in the intersection of ADHD and queerness can face challenges that compound each other. Here, neuroqueer ADDitude readers tell us what they are, and what more can be done to support neurodivergent individuals who are also part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Queer folks are often under tremendous pressure from broader society to fit into norms. And when they don’t, it’s usually attributed to their sexuality or gender identity, so they’re not encouraged to consider that their experiences may be consistent with neurodiversity instead. Not to mention that LGBTQ+ folks tend to have less access to health care, social support, and economic privilege, so they are often less able to get a diagnosis or ADHD medication or support or accommodations even if they do believe they have ADHD.” — An ADDitude Reader

As a queer person, the alienation of feeling ‘different’ is compounded by holding both identities. You may struggle even more to fit in, especially in institutional settings like school or work. More support is needed to acknowledge and deal with the trauma that is collated over a lifetime of struggling with both identities simultaneously.” — An ADDitude Reader

“It’s hard to remember all the positive validation, history and statistics, and good interactions in the LGBTQ+ community when faced with the negative reactions, news, and queerphobia. Also, my rejection sensitivity dysphoria means I’m never really sure who is rejecting me for my orientation and who is just unintentionally triggering the RSD. Is it my trauma/RSD telling me lies in my head or real rejection because of my orientation?— An ADDitude Reader

“I am queer and also have ADHD. The stress of not fitting in  or of being negatively judged can increase some of the self-doubt and anxiety that can come with ADHD. For me, my longer-term partners really are my family and have remained so even after breakups. I don’t have supportive bio family to fall back on because they do not fully get queerness or neurodivergence. With both identities comes a lot of gaslighting and a feeling of invisibility along with an odd hypervisibility (constantly coming out as either queer or as having ADHD).” — Mimi

“Growing up, I always felt different and experienced the world in ways I knew no one else did. I grew up in a conservative environment and was frequently bullied or told I was ‘broken.’ I suffered with depression and anxiety for years. I didn’t understand that the way I felt about people of my gender wasn’t the same as what a straight person might think. In many ways, this discovery mirrors my journey of discovering that I had ADHD. I came out as bisexual at age 28 and was diagnosed with ADHD a year after that.I now know that I’m not broken my brain just works a little differently. That is incredibly freeing for someone who spent so many years feeling like I wasn’t good enough. I’ve also found it  interesting that many of the friends I grew up with have come out as neurodivergent and LGBTQ+! It seems we all ended up finding community with each other even when we didn’t have labels for any of it.— Natasha, Michigan

“Many of the stereotypes I have to contend with as a person with ADHD are identical to those I have to contend with as a bisexual woman‚ namely that I’m ‘flighty’ and ‘afraid of commitment.’ I believe the true antidote to these unkind stereotypes is education, education, and more education. Within LGBT spaces, I’d love to see greater consideration given to those of us with sensory processing and integration issues.” — An ADDitude Reader

[Self-Test: ADHD Symptoms in Adults]

“My 15-year-old identified as LGBTQ and then gender diverse from age 12. In the past 12 months, they now have ADHD and autism diagnoses. Being neurodivergent and LGBTQ means that they are even less understood by their peers. My amazing kid has always been different — quirky, creative, out of the box. They show up in life as one amazing human, even as they continue to struggle to have people understand them.” — An ADDitude Reader

I have ADHD and I’m non-binary, gray asexual and biromantic. I’m 44 and only realized all these things about myself within the last eight years. My ADHD often makes me miss really obvious things, so I do wonder if I might have understood my gender and sexuality sooner without it! I don’t know if it’s logical or not, but although coming out might make me a target for the violence that affects trans people, I’m often more scared of societal rejection, which I suppose is RSD in action. I experience the strong emotions associated with ADHD while seeing any sort of abhorrent injustice. Seeing hate against other LGBTQ+ people gets under my skin on a whole other level.” — Sam, United Kingdom

“Being assigned female at birth while having a boy brain led to 25+ years of my ADHD symptoms presenting more like a typical boy’s. However, because I am female, I was just thought to be a tomboy or rebel and, as a result, nobody ever noticed my struggles trying to keep up with everybody else. I only got diagnosed when I went to grad school in the U.S. and my higher-than-average IQ couldn’t manage school, a part-time job, and taking care of myself.” — An ADDitude Reader

“I’m a transgender man who has ADHD. Social gender norms exist, but often do far more harm than good. ADHD can sometimes make it seem like I don’t have a filter, but gender roles and expectations are unhelpful social constructs that filter trans people out and isolate us simply for who we are. I’m glad I lack that filter!” — Daniel, Michigan

“I realizing in my 30s that I am very demi. I can see how my undiagnosed ADHD and my background contributed to me feeling ‘othered’ and not normal. I didn’t have a label or understanding of why I felt that way. I feel having more resources available to young people who may be questioning why they feel ‘different’ would be beneficial. It took having a friend (in my 30s) who also has ADHD and is queer to say to me, ‘Hey, I hear all of your confusion. Let’s look into this together because I think your experience is similar to mine, and this is what I found out.'” — Susan, Florida

“I am both an ADHDer and a therapist. I work with a lot of LGBTQ neurodivergent folks, and one thing that a client advised me is that, often, spaces designed for LGBTQ people and not ND friendly. LGBTQ ND folx need unique spaces designed by them and for them.— Katie, Florisa

Adult ADHD: Next Steps

Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.