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*This is the second part of a two-part series examining the dating experiences of autistic sapphics, and offering insight to help non-autistic members of our community better engage with autistic partners and love interests. If you missed part one, find it here.*


I have been in autistic and queer activism for almost ten years. I was one of the first people in post-Soviet countries to speak about LGBTQ+ autistic rights.

However,  the issue of relationships between autistic people and people who don’t have any neurological differences (aka neurotypicals) who are considered “normal” , is still a little bit of a bother even for me. 

I remember how I explained “autistic + neurotypical” relationships at one of the queer events in Russia: “Those kinds of relationships can work, just like the relationship between a stereotypical rich New Yorker and a poor Syrian refugee who came from a small village. It will be complicated, and the couple will have issues to overcome, but it may work amazingly in the end.”

There is a gap between autistics and neurotypicals, just like there is a gap between folks from different cultures. 

So, if you are a neurotypical women who is (or wants to be) in a relationship with an autistic woman or i -trans* person, this article is for you. 

Here are 7 things to  remember when dating an autistic woman or nonbinary person: 

  1. Check your privilege.
    Our society is 98% non-autistic. It’s created by neurotypical people for neurotypicals. Understanding the inherent privilege in that is extremely important.

    It helps you see that there are things that your partner will be struggling to deal with because of discrimination and misunderstanding. These obstacles  could be anything from going to the doctor to finding a job. And they are never your partner’s fault.

  2. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to communicate, as long as both partners understand each other.
    Society teaches us that there is only one right way of communicating — a dominant, neurotypical one. Society is wrong. Autistic people don’t have “problems interacting with others.” It’s more like we have a different way of interacting. Autistic people in general have a more “direct” way of communication than those who are not autistic.

    For many of us it also can be difficult — or even impossible — to express our needs verbally. This may be an issue we have always had, or a temporary problem (for example, during a burnout). In these moments  we  may use hand gestures, type, write, or use a special device to express our needs. Please, remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to communicate, as long as you and your partner understand each other.

  3. Autistic people show their emotions differently.
    Once again, this comes down to privilege. When an autistic person doesn’t understand a neurotypical person, people like to say that “autistic people lack empathy.”  However, when a neurotypical person doesn’t understand an autistic person, society teaches that “autistic people don’t have emotions.” You see, there is no way for us to win in this system!

    In reality, autistics just show their emotions differently. For example, we may struggle to look at a person’s eyes and listen to them at the same time, or we may not smile, but instead flap our hands with joy. We may seem non-emotional or be considered a “drama queen.” As you spend more time with your autistic partner you will start to understand their emotions, and methods of expressing those emotions, better.

  4. Masking is a tough stuff.
    Many autistic people, AFAB (assigned female at birth),  may look “normal.” They are extremely good at masking.That means that they are very good at appearing to be neurotypical. It is something that society expects them to do, just like several decades ago society expected lesbian women to marry and “behave straight.”

    Masking is really harmful for mental health. It can lead to depression and burnouts. It could make a person forget their own needs.  You need to ensure that your autistic partner feels safe with you, so they could start to “un-mask.” Many autistic folks need a autistic-friendly specialist’s help to finally start to understand our needs and behave in our authentic way, so please be patient.

  5. Sex is all about communication.
    Even more true in a autistic/non-autistic relationship than when you are sleeping with a neurotypical partner! Please, be aware that autistic folks often have sensory differences. We may be hyper- or hypo- sensitive to some touching, lighting, smells, and sounds. Seemingly banal stuff like light hugs, hair stroking, or the smell of an aroma candle could lead to derealization or a strong sensory overload.

    For this reason, it is extremely important to speak up about any sexual “play” and actions ahead. If you both decided to try something new, a safe word or gesture is important.

    It’s also essential that the autistic partner always has access to their communication devices.

  6. Dating and connection may come in new forms.
    There are many different ways that autistic people  express physical and sexual attraction to others. For example, among autistic folks there are more aromantic people, who, like me, don’t accept the concept of love, but want to be a sexual partner and a friend, while others autistic folks may be extremely romantic.

    Some autistic people may prefer to communicate via the internet or messengers before going on a date, or they may choose a quiet place like a park or museum instead of a loud restaurant for dating.

    Your autistic partner may info-dump (sharing everything about  their favorite topic) as a way of sharing their joy with you.

    Autistic folks also may show empathy in an unusual way for our culture: instead of  socially acceptable sayings, like “Oh, I’m sorry,” they may start to talk about their own experiences, saying “Oh, I have the same problem!”This is not because they want to make the conversation all about themselves. No, it’s much more likely that they wanted to show that they have been in a similar situation, and really understand your experience.

  7. Other struggles, other strengths.
    I’m sure that many of my friends are wondering why it may be extremely easy for me to write a huge op-ed about Chechen politics in one evening, but at the same time not be able to call my doctor or clean my room. “Small things” like dealing with plans changing, minor talks, and cleaning can be almost impossible to deal with for some autistic people, even if they are extremely successful in their area of expertise, or generally considered the “bright.”

    It doesn’t mean that autistic people are so weird because we struggle with “simple stuff” while being  amazing at more difficult projects.. It just means that the privileged part of society who decides what is easy, and what is not, is a neurotypical part of society.

As you see, all autistic people are different, and some of that advice I’ve given may not work with your partner. It’s also likely that I missed something that is important specifically for them. We are all unique, and first and foremost you need to listen to your autistic love interest in order to build  a healthy relationship together.

If you are neurotypical and are dating an autistic woman for the first time, there will be some misunderstandings in your relationship, because so many things that society teaches you about “normal relationships” just aren’t working anymore. Please, remember that autistic people — including your loved one — have already struggled every day just to survive in neurotypical society, so if you want to make your relationship work, you’ll need to take several steps to meet their needs.

But I believe in you. Luckily, you are part of LGBTQ+ community, so you likely have already know something about checking privilege, unusual relationship models,  and power dynamics, meaning this kind of communication-heavy relationship style will come more easily to you than for many cis-hetero folks. 



Writer Ayman Eckford poses in front of a rocky beach.
Ayman Eckford
Ayman Eckford is a transgender autistic person, freelance journalist, and LGBTQ+ activist. They were born in Donetsk, Ukraine, and now living in Sheffield, UK, as a refugee. They write about human rights, gender issues, and disability justice. Follow them on Instagram at @ayman_eckford.