Reflections on My Autism-Trans Intersection
SO IT’S PRIDE MONTH AND NOW’S A GOOD TIME TO TELL YOU ALL ABOUT MY WONDERFUL AUTISTIC/TRANS INTERSECTION
So I’ve been identifying as nonbinary for a long time now (more or less 4 years!) and been diagnosed with autism for longer, but it’s only lately that I’ve come to really understand the mutually productive relationship in my life between queerness and neurodivergence. Being neuroatypical, my trans narrative is similarly atypical from many of my transgender peers, in a way that’s really illuminating.
While I was assigned a gender at birth, my divergent social development in terms of the habitual perception, internalization, and ultimate performance of social norms made it so the gender I had been assigned (and in fact, gender as a concept in general) fairly illegible to me from the beginning. The social conditioning that produces gendered normativity was entirely lost on me — rather than unlearning mandated gender-conformity, I simply never learned it in the first place. And so, for a great deal of my childhood, gender itself was not something I was able to perceive in myself or others. The specifically autistic non-linearity of my thought processes as well as complete incomprehension of anything but the most blatant of social corrections put me in a position where I did not develop the skills or even less, a desire to interpolate my gender performance until I reached a sexual age.
At this point, upon realizing that gendered behaviors (which struck me as arbitrary, confusing, and not organized into any discernible pattern) were necessary for recognition and social capital within the sexual economy, which was just beginning to emerge within my sphere of perception, I 1. got really emo as a means of conforming to a subculture, whose materialities of aesthetic communication were much more legible to me than the coded eroticism of gender, and 2. greatly heightened my performance of sexual availability, in the hopes that it would substitute for gender-conformity in abetting my everyday social acceptance (spoiler: it did!)
Later, after having spent all my golden adolescent years on tumblr dot com, I was introduced to the terminology of trans and nonbinary gender. I applied my autistic impulses of intellectual fixation and compulsive nominalism to the language of queerness and came to understand that a nonbinary or agender state was simply a more accurate taxonomical description of what my gender identity was doing — which is to say, nothing. At very few points did I necessarily feel hostile or dysphoric about the gender I had been assigned — I merely felt that it was not consistent with the perception I had of myself and it would be more sensible for everyone involved if I started describing myself in more accurate terms.
However, coming out as nonbinary was by no means inconsequential — once I did, I started having to struggle for recognition within that. After all, the signification of my queerness, ironically enough, manifested more in a lack of signification of my assigned gender than a substitution for another. Rather than attempting to signify a gender, I simply felt that I should not be forced to perform a static state of identity for which, due to autism, I had no context or frame of reference. And the same became true for a variety of social codes that were illegible or unattainable for me, including (circuitously enough) the mandate of neurotypicality itself!! Wow we really do come full circle!! This has made me a much less stressed and confused person because now that I can relax my harsh and disciplined attempts at performing social norms, I am able to fully experience a more authentic and uncensored self.
These days, if asked, I identify with — but not as — “gendervague,” which is a gender identity that is crucially informed by neurodivergence. Gendervague discourse has been liberating and helpful for a lot of people, and I encourage you to read up on it if you think that applies to you. However I personally don’t feel particularly compelled to identify with a gender at all because I simply just don’t have one.
I’m so grateful to have the support of the trans, autistic, and autistic trans communities both local and global! My experience is not the same as that of every autistic trans person on Earth of course, but this is my experience with it and I think both of these components intersect in ways that are hugely meaningful to me today 🙂
Happy Pride my Sweet Friends and Happy Dillo Eve,