(Featured image description: Image is of a neurodiversity infinity symbol redesigned with the colours of the trans flag alongside part of the transgender symbol).
(CN mention of misogyny, mental health, toxic masculinity)
Sorry for the lack of activity for nearly two months. I’ve had a lot of work to do finishing up my studies. So at the time of writing this I am still in the early stages of transitioning but I have been pondering this question for a while, which I would like to talk about today in light of Pride Month.
What exactly does it mean to be an autistic trans woman?
It’s harder than it sounds to answer, mainly because there isn’t much information out there that is actually good and part of that is due to the stigma surrounding autism. For instance, it is harder to sieve through the mixed narratives that appear via a search engine (which vary from supportive to outright bigotry) if you don’t have any prior knowledge. Hence that is what makes autistic trans people so vulnerable and misunderstood. It is reasonable to suggest that the autistic and trans elements of somebody’s identity do interact with each other but to what extent and reasoning are not clearly defined. Of course, a lot of this is subjective and varies from person to person.
So I’m writing this blog post to hopefully offer an insight as someone whom is just coming out of their shell and starting to embrace being the lady they really are inside.
Please note that this perspective focuses on a trans feminine perspective. Trans men’s perspectives are important but for obvious reasons I can’t talk about that with complete accuracy (even though there are some overlaps). I encourage you to go seek out perspectives from autistic trans men on their perspective.
For me, the answer stems from a few major points:
Gender identity on an internal level is complicated
Many people identify with the gender they were assigned at birth and have no problems with it, hence they are cisgender. Many people also do not identify as their assigned gender hence it’s a little more complicated with that. However, they are all transgender. On a deep level, I don’t align with either the binary male or female gender stereotypical identities.
I never had a strong attachment to either gender roles. I’m not super huge on makeup but I’m also not big on sports. My lack of interest stemmed from the fact that I never saw binary gender roles as important. I knew the stereotypes existed but I didn’t really care. Why are they so important to allistics? It makes no sense. I was in my own bubble with my limited interests and that was fine for me for years.
Now before I go further, I want to say something important. There is NOTHING wrong with this. There is nothing wrong with how autistic people interact with the world, it is the other way around. This also applies when you add in the dimension of gender.
And to address a popular counterargument – could I have been influenced by my peers? No. When I was at school, there was nobody in my year group who transitioned that I knew of and was open about it so there was no opportunity to be influenced by them from a distance. I did just miss the era when trans youth started to become more aware of themselves. Being autistic tends to help add immunity against social trends anyway so if anything, it’s actually an advantage in this instance.
Secondly, your gender identity is not influenced by people around you changing your mind. It comes down to becoming more aware that trans identities exist and being given the freedom and opportunity to question your own gender and experiment. Being trans is not a “trend,” it’s always existed but just wasn’t hugely well known till recently.
I don’t want to be perceived as a man anymore
The thought of being seen as and treated as a man really stresses me out as it’s not who I really am and can’t properly express myself. It repulses me big time as I’ve never liked it but I just never realised it before. However, I want to be treated as a woman as those thoughts are far more positive and reflective of who I am. This is a direct contrast to what the mainstream understanding of what autism is. Wait, don’t autistic people not understand social dynamics and cues? Well:
- It depends on how being autistic affects someone.
- It depends on the support they receive to understand society’s rules
- Regardless of how much an autistic person seems to not “pay attention” to how we’re treated, we are actually paying attention. Yes, this includes those that are seen as “low functioning” or “cannot speak for themselves.”
That includes how we’re being perceived by others. Its why many autistic people have depression and other comorbid conditions which often makes their quality of life far worse than simply being autistic as a result of social exclusion.
I’ve had difficulty in the past connecting to those in my true gender simply because I was socalised as a man. Some of these reasons were self-inflicted unintentionally but other reasons came from wider society (ie. Toxic masculinity).
I have also had my thinking in my mind begin to adjust to a more feminine position over the last several months as I am learning more about the issues that women and trans people face. It’s difficult to explain succinctly other than this being a fundamental personal change inside. I imagine I am not alone in this experience and is quite common with trans people.
I have gender euphoria when presenting as femme, which tells me transitioning is right for me
I also find that whenever I take steps towards living as a woman, I get a feeling of happiness that I never had when I thought I was a guy. The best way I can describe it is a positive buzz that makes me feel very happy but it’s also known as gender euphoria. In other words, the opposite of gender dysphoria. This is a common experience for many trans people.
This includes being able to pass in public and hear other people treat me like a cis woman. Some examples include me going to shops and being referred to with feminine terms of endearment like “love” or “dear.” Another example includes when I am being referred to by others like on a recent trip out where a mother told her kid to “watch out for the lady” when I had to walk past them to pick out some condiments in a café.
Not all of this attention is good though, which brings me to…
I am willing to relearn a whole new set of social rules/expectations
This is exactly what it says and links to the above. This comes with it’s challenges. “Womens’ culture” (for lack of a better way to describe it) is different from “guy culture” considerably. The social rules for women are more complex to learn and trans women will be expected to conform to these standards imposed on women (regardless of whether they agree with some exceptions). This is so that they can be seen as a cis woman by many people in daily life on a subconscious level. Unfortunately, this shouldn’t be the case but it exists and is something that needs to be considered.
This also includes important aspects like safety in public and in relationships. Being perceived as feminine changes these dynamics considerably because then transitioning into a woman pretty much means you will regularly have to deal with misogyny (or worse) in public. This is incredibly difficult to deal with when you factor in things like overstimulation and lack of spatial awareness that can often happen when you’re autistic and overloaded. Hence I’ve had to adjust what I do when I’m out and about.
This does mean a lot of trial and error, experimentation and support is required. Bear in mind this is an enormous step for any trans person (regardless of gender and disability status) because of how drastically things change. For me, this is a challenge I am willing to accept so I can find a happy medium between how I feel inside and where I want to be. Why would I put myself through that unless I am sure transitioning is right for me? It’s the same for any other trans person.
Transitioning is one of many ways someone evolves on a personal level.
Just because somebody is trans, it doesn’t mean that is their only identity. Hence it is important not to lose sight of this. Some other related identities include career, sexual orientation, religious/political affiliations as well as various other experiences they have. Hence essentially a gender transition shows that somebody is still a work in progress.
For me, while I am transitioning into a woman, I am also transitioning from education into the workplace for instance. Hence, I am also evolving in other ways too separately from my gender identity. Hence I’m not just Milla the trans lady, I’m also Milla the university graduate, Milla the writer etc. There are other ways too but you get the idea.
Some final thoughts
To conclude, this is a result of this long path to acceptance, I feel much happier and more confident with myself since accepting this and am ready to face the next wave of challenges. I will be honest and admit that I am a bit scared of what comes next and for good reasons.
That’s not to say I am unsure of what I really want – I do – but it is adjusting to huge changes that await me. This includes changing my name and gender marker on my documents, developing my fashion sense and feminine presentation as well as the medical alterations that hormones will have on my body. However, I strongly believe it will be for the better in the long run.
That’s all for today. I hope this article has helped others better understand what living as an autistic trans woman is like.
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