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Intersectional Identities: Autism, gender, sexuality

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Autistic individuals experience a high prevalence of sexual orientation and gender diversity. Reframing Autism and The Autistic Realm Australia are pleased to announce that the 2021 Biannual Symposium will now be held online, on June 18, Autistic Pride Day. Taking place during Pride Month, the Symposium will provide a platform for Australian Autistic, LGBTQIA+ speakers to share their lived expertise in intersectional identities.

Appropriate for the Autistic community, as well as for families, allies and professionals, the symposium will provide access to an in-depth exploration of the experiential knowledge of Autistic-LGBTQIA+ individuals, an understanding of which is crucial to supporting Autistic individuals across the lifespan.

The structure of the program at the 2021 Biannual Symposium has been designed to ensure accessibility, and to encourage engagement and interaction.

The single-stream program will include expert sessions, panel discussions, and keynote presentations by Dr Emma Goodall and Dr Wenn Lawson. The expert sessions and panel discussions will cover the broad themes of:

  • youth experiences
  • implications for practice and parenting, and
  • living intersectional identities authentically

This online event will follow the below agenda, and will additionally be available to view at your convenience for 30 days after the event.

We are pleased to share with you the agenda for the day:

9:00am, WELCOME

Welcome to Country, N’arweet Dr Carolyn Briggs AM (Boon Wurrung Elder),

Conference opening, Kathy Isaacs (Chairperson, Reframing Autism & TARA)

9:20am, PAPER

Resolving intrapersonal gender conflict through contemporary understandings of gender non-conformity and queer theory: Personal and academic perspectives, Katharine Annear

9:40am, Sensory break


Sex Education and Autistic/LGBTQIA+ young people, Dr Emma Goodall (explicit content warning)

10:45am, Break

11:15am, PANEL, Youth perspectives

Sam Rose in conversation with Christian Tsoutsouvas, Shianne Downward and Shadia Hancock

12:15pm, Break

1:00pm, SESSION, Implications for practice and parenting

Facilitating true inclusion for Autistic LGBTQI+ in educational and social settings, Meg Eusope

What do you do when your child comes to you and says…: Practical support strategies, Anna Cristina

Parenting for good mental health: What every neurodivergent & LGBTQIA+ child needs you to know, Amanda Buckland

2:00pm, Sensory break

2:15pm, PANEL, Living intersectional identities authentically

Kathy Isaacs in conversation with Jae EvergreenStevie Lang and Yenn Purkis

3:15pm, Break


Autistic Gender Identity: A Research Perspective, Dr Wenn Lawson


Keynote Presenters 

Dr Emma Goodall is an Autistic author, keynote speaker, researcher and disability and education consultant. She works both publicly and privately to facilitate the best life outcomes possible for people, including Autistics with a range of support needs. She has written and presented on education, Autism, resilience, mental health, interoception, relationships and sexuality for Autistics. 

Emma is an adjunct Professor at the University of Wollongong and a member of the Australian Society for Autism Research (ASfAR) Executive Committee, on the access committee for the Autism CRC Biobank and an MSc student at University of Southern Queensland. She developed an online module on interoception for Torrens University and has collaborated with the Australian Psychological Society to develop an Autismspecific course for psychologists. Widely published, Emma writes for both academic journals and for mainstream publishers in the areas of Autism, disability and education. She also supports organisations to develop and implement plans to support adult Autistics in residential settings and provides life coaching and interoception coaching for Autistic adults, children and young people, schools, preschools and other organisations, through her Healthy Possibilities Consultancy. 

Sex Education and Autistic/LGBTQIA+ young people (explicit content warning) 

How do we know who we are attracted to and what we might like or not like in a sexual relationship? Sexuality and intimate relationships for Autistics are explored in this presentation with honest observations about the impact of sensory sensitivities and difficulties in communication between Autistics and non-autistic partners. Issues around consent and safe ways to explore sexual activities will be presented through a card game. 


Dr Wenn Lawson, (PhDAFBPsS; MAPS; AASW, Autistic lecturer, psychologist, researcher, advocate, writer and poet, has passionately shared professional and personal knowledge of Autism over the past three decades. He has written/contributed to more than 25 books and many papers. Wenn is an Associate Researcher with Curtin University (WA) and Macquarie University (NSW). He is Tutor Practitioner with the University of Birmingham’s (UK) Masters Autism course, member of the Autism Co-operative Research Centre (ACRC), Co-Chair of the Autism Research Council, Australia, Ambassador for ‘I CAN’, Australia, and on the Editorial Board ‘Autism in Adulthood’. Dr Wenn is also a member of The ND Co. Australia, and a family man with Autistic offspring and grandchildren. In 2008 Dr Wenn won fourth place as Victorian Australian of The Year and in 2017 he presented to the United Nations on matters of Autism and ageing. 

Autistic Gender Identity: A Research Perspective 

Statistically Autistic individuals are nine times more likely to commit suicide (7.5%15%) than individuals in the non-autistic population (see: Cassidy, 2015; Pelton & Cassidy, 2017). Gender identity in Autism is often formed slowly, with little access to role models, is often not in line with social expectation and can be at odds with family, friends and society at large. It would seem gender variance is common and gender dysphoria higher than in the non-autistic population. When living with gender dysphoria (GD) and Autistic, however, individuals are doubly disadvantaged. While individuals in the non-autistic population living with GD are 4050 times more likely to attempt suicide, than those living without GD (Peterson, et al 2016), we are uncertain what this means in Autism. This presentation is given to encourage conversation re: Autism, gender, GD and gender variance in Autism. Is GD more common in Autism and are we prepared for this population? This talk offers, in practical ways, ideas to help understand, as well as practical guidance on discovering the intersectionality of gender identity, GD and Autism. Misunderstanding and applying typical perspectives to gender issues and Autism will only push this population into further mental health issues. Knowledge is power and power, used appropriately, can empower those we support. 

Thank you to our generous sponsors for their support

Gold and Scholarship Sponsor: The Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Australia and New Zealand (ASAN AUNZ)

ASAN AUNZ is run by Australian and New Zealander Autistic people, for Autistic people. We are the peak body for Autistic Self-Advocacy in Australia and New Zealand. We are associated with ASAN USA, making us a part of an international Autism Self-Advocacy Network. 

ASAN AUNZ understands that Autistic citizens can contribute to society and enrich the lives of their families and communities. We are committed to enabling Autistic citizens to achieve their full potential in society. 

While society provides supports and accommodations for many of its citizens, there is not enough of an understanding of the specific needs of Autistic children and adults. Autistic people are entitled to be involved in the planning of services to be used by themselves and their peers. 

Inclusive and equitable services can only be developed when stakeholders contribute towards promoting their own wellbeing and connectedness to society. 

We work from the phrase Nothing about us, without us!“, which means that Autistic people should get a say in how people give support to us and how we are seen in the world. 


Silver Sponsor: Autism Connect (AMAZE)

Autism Connect is a national Autism helpline. It provides free, expert information and advice to help Autistic people, their supporters and professionals. The helpline is confidential, evidence based and independent.  

Autism Connect advisors have Autism-specific expertise across the whole of life, from early intervention and assessment to education, diagnosis support, employment and the NDIS.

To speak with an Autism Connect advisor, call 1300 308 699, email info@autismconnect.org.au or chat online at amaze.org.au/autismconnect from 8 am–7 pm, Monday to Friday. 


Scholarship Sponsor: Minus18

Minus18 are champions for LGBTQIA+ young people. We’re leading change, building social inclusion, and advocating for an Australia where all young people are safe, empowered, and surrounded by people that support them. Our work includes our preventative model of mental health support, tackling social isolation by creating fun-filled spaces where LGBTQIA+ young people belong and are celebrated, as well as transforming communities through LGBTQIA+ training, resources, and digital campaigns that enable others to champion inclusivity. 


Scholarship Sponsor: I CAN Network

I CAN Network Ltd. is Australia’s largest provider of Autistic-led group mentoring programs, training and consultancy. In the past year alone, I CAN has mentored 2000+ Autistic young people through school and online programs, including groups that empower Autistic/LGBTQIA+ teens via peer discussions, normalising differences and providing a safe space to connect. The cornerstones of I CAN – promoting acceptance, pride, embracing differences and celebrating strengths – serve as powerful protective factors for young people.

I CAN is a proud 2021 HEY Grant recipient from the Victorian government, collaborating with the LBGTQIA+ youth-sector to ensure that their valuable services are also Autistic-informed.


Join us in June to celebrate Autistic and LGBTQIA+ identity and culture.


This event is co-hosted by The Autistic Realm Australia (TARA) and funded by an ILC grant administered by the DSS.



Whether you are Autistic, you love someone Autistic, or you work with Autistic people, we want to hear from you.

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