At the intersection of gender and autism (for me!)

I’ve had this post saved in drafts for about two months now. I’ve been hesitant to publish it because I don’t want to do a disservice to anyone, but two things happened within a short time span and it’s time to hit the publish button with a few disclaimers.

Firstly, the stuff that happened… Last night, I decided that I needed to figure out why I have draft posts that are unpublished and make the decision to either publish or delete. Then, this morning, I came across a Facebook status, related to this topic, which really hurt me.

So, it’s time to hit publish, but please note this disclaimer:

This is about me. Only me. Some people might relate to this post, and other people might not. Please do not assume that this post reflects the feelings and experiences of anyone other than me. I do not wish to talk over people with similar experiences, and nor do I wish to pretend that what this post says is generalisable.

So, here I am stepping out of another box.

This blog was started to explore what being autistic means to me following my stepping out of the neurotypical box, but there is another box that I have lived in for a long time that I have stepped out of. That box is the gender identity box.

This is difficult to write about because I don’t think that there are existing words to describe my experience, and I can’t really think of appropriate words either. Nevertheless, I want to write about it because this is an important part of who I am.

I present as a woman. I have body parts that are traditionally associated with being a female (edited because I now know that this phrasing might be offensive to intersex folk, and I apologise for my yuckiness) a uterus, breasts, and a vagina. These are parts that are traditionally associated with being a female. The problem with body bits is that too often they are conflated with gender, and too often both biological sex and gender are thought of as binaries.

This is inaccurate. Gender is not an either-or man-woman thing. There are a variety of genders that don’t conform to man or woman. Gender is also not the same as biological sex, and biological sex is not binary either.

So, what does all that mean for me?

It means that people see me and assume that I am a woman. I am not. I am not a man either. I am neither and/or both. My gender is not fluid. It is part of who I am. I came to realise this when talking to women. I don’t experience similar feelings of what it is like to be a woman. I see the “I am woman. Hear me roar.” posts and I admire them, but I admire them from the perspective of an observer rather than the perspective of someone who experiences those feelings. I also don’t experience similar feelings of what it is like to be a man. I know this from talking to men.

It has taken me a long time to accept that part of myself. That part that says “you aren’t really either of those.” It has taken me even longer to figure out what to call that part of me.

The nearest that I have been able to find is gendervague, and while it’s imperfect, it’s the best word that exists because I do believe that my gender intersects with my neurodivergence to create this sense of vagueness about my own gender.

What else does this mean?

It means that my pronouns are they/them/theirs. I know that people think that this is grammatically incorrect. People who think that are wrong. I know that people think that this is merely a preference. People who think that are also wrong.

If you are a man, imagine your knee jerk “wait, that’s not right” reaction when people refer to you as she. If you are a woman, imagine your knee jerk “wait, that’s not right” reaction when people refer to you as he. That is how I feel when I read or hear people saying she when they refer to me.

My gender is not an accessory. It’s not a preference. It’s not a T-Shirt to be worn as dictated by the environment. My gender is not something that I can choose to wear, and take off whenever it’s less than comfortable. While many other people may experience gender fluidity, my gender is fixed. It’s fixed at some vague point in the middle or outside of man/woman. My gender is an innate part of who I am and how I experience the world.


Update:
Since publishing this, I realised that I have inadvertently copied the title from this series of posts from Musings of an Aspie. This was unintentional, but I have read those posts before so I must have stored the phrase in my memory banks without realising that they came from another writer rather than my own head. I apologise for my unintentional plagiarism, and encourage future readers of this post to check out the linked posts.

This post has been translated into Russian. You can access the translation here.

8 thoughts on “At the intersection of gender and autism (for me!)”

  1. I decided to comment, which is not something I usually do since typed words are difficult for me. What you wrote here resonated so much in me, I have always felt I am neither, I am me, without gender for lack of a better explanation. Binary words in general have posed a problem for me all my life (good-bad etc.) I never really understood them, things in my own mind just are. It’s difficult to explain. I’m not sure if being autistic is the reason (not that it is actually relevant as it doesn’t change anything, more a feeling of curiosity, the whys always fascinate me). I get the feeling from the things I have read over the years, that autisitcs in general seem much more non-binary in regards to gender, biological sex and sexuality, of course this is just a feeling and as thus I can’t verify it in anyway.

    Thank you for all your written words.

  2. What you are describing is similar to what I’m experiencing. At first, I thought it was something mostly connecting to being a parent. I can’t identify as a mom, but I strongly identify as a parent. Considering how the concept of being a mom is hard to fit in to a disabled person’s life, it was clear to me why I couldn’t see that the mom thing had anything to do with me. However, I’m starting to realize that there’s something more to it. I still haven’t figure out exactly how I identify but your description is probably the closest description I’ve ever read about.

  3. I feel like I am every gender and no gender at the same time, but living in a conservative area I go by “she/her” only. I feel like genderqueer fits best. I mean, ALL the pronouns feel right..yet none do.

  4. I just wanted to say thank you for your openness. I identify as genderqueer/transmasculine and find many people I know have a very hard time with non binary or agender people. I love the term gendervague! I am not autistic, my son is, and I really like reading your posts, comments and blogging stuff. I can honestly say I have learned a lot from you. I appreciate the way you put yourself out there. I am not sure that I could do the same as I don’t think I could make myself feel so vulnerable. I respect the hell out of you and others who share so much of yourselves to help the rest of us. And we have the same hair!

  5. As an autistic person I feel similarly . I never identified with the dispositions of other women and felt more like a masculine woman if that makes sense yet not like a womanly man. It has been a state of confusion over my life as there seemed no way to understand how I saw and related to myself. A Tomboy but not thoroughly so and I preferred male company but not the type that fixated on women , I was more like one of the guys as I was /am interested in relating about various subjects that most women seem to ignore. I tend to be a bit of a recluse due to various health conditions and also my autism.

Comments are closed.