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This is a topic that’s come up a lot in my Autistic women’s support group. Many of us -a much higher percentage than you’d see in a similarly sized meeting of NT women- are gay, genderqueer, or utterly baffled about the purpose of gender. (There’s another meeting just for the LBGTQ and genderqueer and trans autistics. Like the women’s-only meeting, it was started by popular demand.)

One of my peeps sent me this tonight:

https://candidlyautistic.tumblr.com/post/156703452240/how-does-autgender-work

and I’m not going to see her or my group for almost two weeks, during which time I will die if I can’t discuss it. 

 

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Yes, I find that being autistic makes my experience of gender and being trans different than what it is for a NT person. 

My experience of gender is pretty much limited to that of gender dysphoria, which I think effects me more than it effects NT trans people.

A mixture of my autistic traits makes my dysphoria unbearable even with hormone treatment. Particularly sensory issues mixed with my extremely analytical brain that is always trying to make sense of things, and find solutions for problems, when gender dysphoria doesn't have a solution and the way that trans people are treated can't be rationalised.

My sensory issues make me hyperaware of body parts that invalidate my gender as defined by me, which makes it hard to do activities and functions associated with them. 

Also, my experience of being a man is not cisnormative, in a world where we are all expected to be cisnormative. Not just because I don't have the same parts or bodily functions either. Most cisgender men, especially white cisgender men, are of majority and are treated as such, whereas I am not.

Nor do I support some of the advantages of being a white cisgender male. Or the stereotypical biases about men in general. 

My experience of being a man is entirely cerebral. The body I have is only partially connected with that, which because of the pressures of cisnormativity and my personal beliefs as to what would make me complete as a man, is extremely difficult on my "better days". 

I think that autistic people can have our own experience of gender because we experience gender as it is intended, in the brain, as opposed to in the body and genitals like most people define gender. For us, we are, in my opinion, better able to understand that gender and biological sex are not the same thing, and that biological sex doesn't always define you as much as gender does. 

What is the purpose of gender? All I can really say is that society has that very wrong. I think gender has the sole purpose of being part of a person, and that is all. 

It is my opinion that it is up to us as our own person to define what our gender is and means to us, and what, if any, other purpose it serves in our life. 

I think the real struggle comes with breaking out of that cisnormativity and allowing ourselves to accept that there is no binary when it comes to gender. Even males and females all experience their gender in different ways. 

My problem is that I accept that parts don't define my gender, but for me they are a large part of being me as a whole individual, not because having them makes me more of a man or more acceptable to others and society as a whole, or because I set out to be exactly the definition of cisnormative mankind, but because that is just who I am and what I need to function in life both physically and mentally. 

I have had to learn to defend who I am in this area, and to stop caring what others think of me, or believe me to be because I don't fit their tiny description of what a man should be. 

Because I wasn't brought into this world to fit some skewed ideal or other people's definitions. My life is extremely difficult already without succumbing to the hatred and bigotry of others. 

That is hard for me, I know too well that the world overall looks down on me for who I am, and every day there is some example of how I am treated as less because of it. 

I'm not some kind of toy or poster that deserves to be reduced to body parts. I have never understood, and never will understand how cis people go about their lives accepting that society reduces such a large part of who they are to their private parts and how they reproduce. 

Or how most of them don't even realise it. I can't comprehend it at all. 

My largest struggle to do with gender isn't my gender necessarily. It is how others stereotype it, the loss of human rights because of how society views it, and the personal hardships that come with accepting that I don't need anything more than I have to be a real man, but I do to be complete as a man, and no one really understands that. 

Makes sense to me that autistic people have a different experience of their gender, whatever that may be. We have a different experience with everything because we are different, and because we are expected to be the same and to function as everyone else does in a world that isn't really compatible with us.

I think if you are having difficulties with your gender, or even the purpose it serves in your life, spend some time reflecting on what it means to you and if it really fits with the person you are.

At the end of the day, only you can decide and define who you are. And you aren't body parts. 

I will say that whilst I still struggle with fear around others, mostly to do with fear of judgement and risk of discrimination, I have never been more free than the day I let myself escape the trap of allowing society and others to define what makes me a man, and what makes me a worthwhile man.

That was a trap I was glad to come out of, and a major step forward in my journey, both as a trans person and an autistic person. Maybe they don't want to let me be, but be damned if I won't let me be just because of what others say and think about me. 

Sorry if that isn't what you were looking for. 

Edited by Hopelessly Broken
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I would just like to say that that was beautiful Hopelessly Broken, you've pretty much described the core of my belief about gender.

Nice to see other people think the same way.

In regards to OP I had thought that my own less than standard gender coupled with my ASD was something I thought I was alone with. It's also nice too see that there are lots more than just me. ;-]

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I and a lot of the women from my group have trouble with, for one thing, experiencing gender as a thing that happens all the time. I have a very hard time understanding that people are responding to me as a female in situations that to me seem ridiculous for that purpose. How can it matter if I’m a woman when I’m buying groceries or speaking up at a meeting? If I’m talking to someone and expressing an idea, discussing a thought, that’s a moment when I feel particularly genderless; I feel like thought. Like a thinking entity. It disgusts me to realize that I’m being judged, or even considered, as a female, specifically. How on earth is it relevant?

This is hard to talk about; I don’t think I even have good language for the thoughts I’m trying to express.

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Yes, you're right. That is something that is rather odd about gender, however that doesn't come from you, it comes from others and societal standards of the gender. Most things in this world are in fact completely irrelevant to gender, but unfortunately the tradition of male and female makes people not realise it. 

That should begin to pass and fade away as the children of millenials and generation Z come into the world as older teens and young adults with enough place in society to change the way it runs, because the vast majority of Millenials and generation Z's don't have traditional beliefs, and oppose them strongly. 

I think the reason why people think that gender applies to everything is because it is part of our overall identity, which is something that doesn't change. That said, it also doesn't belong to anyone else, so yeah. Personally, there are a lot of times in life where I have wanted to tell someone, you know what, I am not some kind of toy or object, I belong to me only, and its only my right to say who I am and to apply it or not apply it. 

But of course, over the years I have learnt that my honesty isn't very appreciated and is often perceived as socially inappropriate, so I say nothing. 

At the end of the day it comes back to you. Do you consider yourself to be a female, and if so what can I do to remind myself that those things people believe are not true, they are just societal expectations that are my own choice as to whether or not I meet them. I am a woman because I am a woman, simple as that, and woman doesn't have to apply to the way I think or behave. 

For example, a lot of people in my life believe that I should be this huge tank of muscles and doing sport, and that I should be proud of the fact men get treated as better than everyone else because I am part of the male community. 

Well, sorry, but I'm not. And to be quite frank, you can shove that up your rear end, I don't believe in that whatsoever and I don't believe in the pressures that society places on people to look a certain way just because of their gender. My gender isn't glued to everyone else's eyeballs, it is glued within my brain, thanks. 

 

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So I hope I'm not overstepping my bounds or being offensive with this. I am trans, but not ASD, though I have traits. My last partner of 7 years was autistic. I am quite well-read academically speaking in terms of trans issues and history.  I confess at first when I heard of an autistic person transitioning I was like "What no", but now after reading so much and meeting so many people, my opinion has very much changed.

I do think that some people with ASD are at risk of being "influenced" by social media moreso than non-ASD folks. Because it is simply a component of ASD to "take more seriously" some things....so I think a lot of young people with ASD are "questioning their gender" now, where without that outside influence it never would have occurred to them they needed to question at all -- even if they felt very "neutral" about their own gender, if that makes sense? I feel bad for young people who now are being told there is something "wrong" with them, or something they need to "define" for others, it's not a healthy approach to self-identity, trans or not. I think it is very hard to learn to accept yourself amid all the confusion, especially if you already have social difficulties.

That said, I think there is a phenomenon which isn't recorded in transgender literature, which is transpeople who are also ASD. It's far, far too common to be dismissed as "they're just confused".We know there have always been people who wouldn't/couldn't conform to gender norms in society historically, and they're usually assumed to be "gay" or "trans", but I am wondering how many were actually ASD. When I meet these folks or read about them, it seems really obvious to me they don't follow the same "track" as some other types of transgender people. They're often extremely non-binary, and I've known many(most?) that hormones/surgery did not seem to help their "dysphoria". But they clearly needed to be able to express themselves in these "mixed gender" ways to be happy and healthy. I really do think "autistic transgender" it's its own thing. (Unfortunately there's a lot of backlash against examining sub-types of transpeople due to some historical problems with that.)

 

On 3/16/2018 at 5:43 PM, Gearhead said:

I and a lot of the women from my group have trouble with, for one thing, experiencing gender as a thing that happens all the time. I have a very hard time understanding that people are responding to me as a female in situations that to me seem ridiculous for that purpose. How can it matter if I’m a woman when I’m buying groceries or speaking up at a meeting? If I’m talking to someone and expressing an idea, discussing a thought, that’s a moment when I feel particularly genderless; I feel like thought. Like a thinking entity. It disgusts me to realize that I’m being judged, or even considered, as a female, specifically. How on earth is it relevant?

I 100% agree with this feeling. I think people who think about their gender relative to everything they do are totally goofy. I've heard from several people who are neither trans nor ASD that they are equally confused that gender would be a factor in something like buying groceries. But apparently for some people it is. I'm thinking this is more a personality thing or a learned-from-family thing than something related to ASD. (It definitely makes me mad that my actions are interpreted differently whether I am read as male or female when I have always been the same person doing them. Like I'm supposed to pick FOODS or PIECES OF CLOTH differently because I am masculine or feminine?? What?? But unfortunately most people see through a gendered filter whether they're aware of it or not.)

 

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As a trans person, hate to say it, but you really should know better than to assume there is only one track trans people can or do follow in regards to transition. 

You should also know that transition isn't just a medical and physical thing, and dysphoria isn't either. I have been taking testosterone for almost 5 years now, my dysphoria is actually worse than it worse pre-T because of what it can't change, and because as an adult, I am more impacted by and aware of social, political and legal issues that effect me and my ability to be who I am without putting myself at risk. 

For some, medical and physical transition, and body dysphoria is the most significant, it is for me, but that doesn't mean I don't have social or legal dysphoria because of those types of things I need to change to be myself and fit into society as myself. Nor does it mean those types of dysphoria are less than the former, because they are not. All of those types of dysphoria can lead to suicide,  mental illness, self-harm, homelessness, poverty, and all of the consequences of not being able to change the things related to them include possible discrimination, harassment, transphobia, even to the extent of abuse and murder.

For example, in my country I am not allowed to get photo identification without a birth certificate that has my gender on it, but to change my birth certificate I must get sterilised and provide medical proof of that, as well as proof of not being married. 

There are so few surgeons who will operate on trans people where I live, I have spent years trying to find one and have only met discrimination and rejection. 

I cannot even prove I am an adult and I have been physically assaulted for it by police officers. I cannot get a job, go to higher education or vote because you need photo identification to do all of those things. 

This doesn't effect me physically like hormones do, but to say that is not significant, that not having the right to have identification is not a violation of a person's humanity, is false. It is devastating, depressing and absolutely embarrassing. 

That is just one example of what dysphoria can look like socially and legally. I cannot leave my own home without believing that someone will assault me again, and I believe that I am worthless because I can't even get a job to provide myself with adequate finances to live yet alone save and pay for the hefty medical expense that comes with being who I am. 

Every day, I believe I am nothing but a costume because I am unable to do what I need to do to be the real me. A costume, not even a real person. 

The way people look at me and address me for what I look like on the outside causes me to withdraw even more socially, because it is too hard to sit there with someone knowing that they have absolutely no idea what it is like to have the wrong body, to be addressed only as a body that isn't even mine and that could very well lead to my suicide if I don't have the chance to be who I am. 

Hormones and surgery can help physically speaking, but they don't change laws or politics, and they don't change how trans people are treated and neglected by society. 

They don't change how many of us are murdered and abused every day. Nothing we can do changes those things. 

As for self-identification, don't all trans people do that. Even those of us who require a diagnosis of gender dysphoria to get treatment do that, it is a part of transitioning. Why would we ever get diagnosed with gender dysphoria if we didn't do that first? Seems rather impossible to me. How would we know we are trans without that? 

Seems like you are saying that social and legal transition is of no significance, and that social and legal issues that effect trans people are not, either. 

Obviously being autistic has also effected my transition and added to those problems. My transition was delayed because of it, I have been abused because of it, it has almost cost me my life more times than I can count. 

That "being autistic means you are too stupid or unable to know who you are, or to make informed decisions about yourself" attitude almost killed me. It needs to be taken more seriously, because it does kill a lot of autistic trans people. We have enough shit to deal with in our lives without bureaucracy and bigotry added to it. 

 

 

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18 hours ago, Hopelessly Broken said:

As a trans person, hate to say it, but you really should know better than to assume there is only one track trans people can or do follow in regards to transition. 


You should also know that transition isn't just a medical and physical thing, and dysphoria isn't either.

[...]

Seems like you are saying that social and legal transition is of no significance, and that social and legal issues that effect trans people are not, either. 

I'm sorry if I seem argumentative, but where did I say any of those things?

I'm well aware, on a personal level, the severe suffering dysphoria can cause, and the awful social issues we have to go through. Preaching to the choir here. I haven't been employed in a year because no one will hire me, I have been in the hospital for suicide attempts. I get it. 

But I thought I specifically said, as I transitioned and met more trans people, I realized that the idea that there is "one track" is false, and the dismissal of autistic people is wrong. Perhaps I wasn't clear in my post.

 

As for self-identification, don't all trans people do that. Even those of us who require a diagnosis of gender dysphoria to get treatment do that, it is a part of transitioning 

That wasn't what I meant by "self-identification". I wasn't talking in terms of gender, I was talking about transitioning. I was talking about the same teenage development process every human goes through, when they are learning about themselves. I think young people, not just people with ASD,  are having a lot of new challenges trying to separate themselves from media images and stereotypes. 

 

Your point about testosterone not changing everything is part of my point though -- that I know a lot of autistic transpeople who didn't have their dysphoria magically cured by HRT and who continue to suffer. Some people think that mean nobody autistic should transition. Unfortunately, there are *some* autistic people who genuinely have trouble making informed decisions for themselves. So I understand why that would need to be part of the assessment process. But what I was saying is that it means these people need additional care and closer research to determine what WILL help them feel better, and not blocked from expressing their gender just because they're autistic. 

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1 hour ago, snakes said:

 

I'm sorry if I seem argumentative, but where did I say any of those things?

I'm well aware, on a personal level, the severe suffering dysphoria can cause, and the awful social issues we have to go through. Preaching to the choir here. I haven't been employed in a year because no one will hire me, I have been in the hospital for suicide attempts. I get it. 

But I thought I specifically said, as I transitioned and met more trans people, I realized that the idea that there is "one track" is false, and the dismissal of autistic people is wrong. Perhaps I wasn't clear in my post.

 

That wasn't what I meant by "self-identification". I wasn't talking in terms of gender, I was talking about transitioning. I was talking about the same teenage development process every human goes through, when they are learning about themselves.

I think young people, not just people with ASD,  are having a lot of new challenges trying to separate themselves from media images and stereotypes. 

 

Your point about testosterone not changing everything is part of my point though -- that I know a lot of autistic transpeople who didn't have their dysphoria magically cured by HRT and who continue to suffer. Some people think that mean nobody autistic should transition. Unfortunately, there are *some* autistic people who genuinely have trouble making informed decisions for themselves. So I understand why that would need to be part of the assessment process. But what I was saying is that it means these people need additional care and closer research to determine what WILL help them feel better, and not blocked from expressing their gender just because they're autistic. 

I have no idea how transition relates to normal teenage development on any level at all. We already know who we are, we transition to affirm it socially, legally and medically/physically if necessary. 

No one has their dysphoria magically cured. There is no cure. That wasn't what I meant by testosterone not being able to change everything. I am not and was never looking for a cure, I would be failing myself if I do. I meant there are physical parts and functions of the body it can't change, that even surgery can't change, in addition to those social and legal things it obviously doesn't change, that nothing and no one can change except people of power. 

I know dysphoria is life long, I  wouldn't have gone on to medically transition if I didn't understand that. I medically transition so that I can have a chance to live a better quality of life, not to be cured. That would be just as much of a lie as having to have the wrong body to me. 

It wasn't that you said that social and legal transition are insignificant, it was that you never mentioned it, and the wording you used made it seem to me that being influenced by how others portray you, and having issues with being portrayed incorrectly is not part of being a trans person. 

You also said to self-identify is not healthy, to me that came across as slandering the early part of social transition that exists. Giving the impression that staying in the closet and not admitting who you are is better until you look the part. 

So, no, you were not very clear, however that is my problem and I apologise. 

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