Gender Euphoria: How Transitioning Affects Autistic Related Passions

Featured image description: White text on a pink background that says: “Gender Euphoria: How Transitioning Affects Autistic Related Passions”. On the right is the a logo for the blog ,”Trans Autistic Feminist” (a gold neurodiversity helix on a black trans symbol) with the blog name in purple.

Content warning: gender dysphoria, trauma discussion, toxic masculinity, gamerTM culture discussion, radicalisation mention

Hi all,

Today I am going to talk about an aspect of transitioning and getting lived experience that I haven’t talked about much on here. Namely, how it changes hobbies and passions (aka what many people describe as “special interests” in autistic people) usually for the better.

Transitioning and hobbies

There was something regarding hobbies that I was told after coming out, which I imagine is a fairly common thing told to freshly cracked eggs. This idea is that people who come out should drop all previous things that were associated with them pre-transition, including hobbies. This would be because of shame over who they were. Hence, to be themselves they need to essentially conform to gender based stereotypes.
I don’t need to explain the problems with gender stereotypes and putting hobbies into boxes. However before I go on to the positives regarding hobbies and transitioning, the issue with this idea need explaining. Namely that:

It misunderstands the trauma trans people have

Generally, a lot of the trauma trans people have regarding their hobbies stem as a result of how they engage with said hobbies. Namely, to try to suppress their true gender identity whether they realise it or not. The hobbies themselves aren’t necessarily the issue.

For a lot of trans people, before they come out they try to live the assigned role they were given. I find it difficult to describe without using the wording I used when I tried to do this, so I’ll use it. Namely, a quest to “find a masculine identity I [was] comfortable with.” Often this does include conforming to gender stereotypes sometimes to extreme ends.

Trauma can be compounded by this for many possible reasons like:

  • Realising that it isn’t solving the underlying distress (only transitioning does that).
  • How people perceive said trans person engaging with said hobbies can be distressing
  • Becoming toxic and harmful in the process through social circles, which need to be unpacked (a lot of trans women have had anti-SJW/alt right and/or incel phases, even if they don’t truly believe the argument. However, many go along with them to fit in)
  • When they discover they’ve internalised a lot of transphobic myths from wider society and needing to unpack them
  • All of the above can be complicated when somebody practices hyper masculinity or hyper femininity as a result
  • Likewise when other intersections are involved, such as disability and race

Changing their interests whether pre or post transition by itself will usually only help trans people when it is to:

  • Alleviate dysphoria
  • Increase euphoria
  • Heal from trauma
  • Aid personal safety

In longer words, it can be a new beginning in being true to themselves. Going “OK I didn’t actually like this. What do I actually like? Who am I really? How can I express myself in a genuine way?” It means unpacking the trauma and unconscious bigotry they acquired over time. It means looking deep into themselves and self-reflecting honestly. It also means working out a practical plan of action on taking steps to move forward and become themselves. This is why supportive therapy can be very beneficial for many.

How it could impact trans autistic people

For an autistic person, this is even more doubly important. Passions are often something that is an integral part of our identity and being told to change it completely is an impossible request.

Often our best chances of having a successful career stem from our passions. Hence, to just abandon them can be further damaging as we can lose our sense of purpose and direction and put us at risk of mental harm (or even radicalisation to the far right especially for cis autistic men.)

Additionally, engaging in passions can be very helpful for sensory regulation in a world that is hostile towards autistic people and even more hostile to trans autistic people. Having something reliable to fall back on to help deal with the world helps mitigate meltdowns and can be life saving.

Additionally, ADHD related hyper focusing can also factor into this especially when it makes it easy for time to pass. This can greatly boost enjoyment of passions and sustain mental health. This is especially important as due to both ableism and transphobia, autistic trans people are more likely to be unemployed, have comorbid mental illnesses and/or untreated gender dysphoria.

Redirecting passions to become more euphoric

A way around this is to redirect energy into more inclusive and euphoric aspects of hobbies. Let me contextualise all the above using my passion for video games:

Over the last year or so, I’ve gravitated more towards casual games aimed primarily at women (such as Animal Crossing, Rune Factory and otome visual novels). I play more “core games” on lower difficulties such as Xenoblade Chronicles, embrace accessibility features and becoming a mostly handheld-only gamer gal. This has the very pleasant side effect of being quite euphoric and validating. It is telling me that “Yes I am feminine and I am enjoying what I deprived myself of prior to coming out.” Said games being feminine is seen that way by wider society. Subsequently I enjoy gaming a lot more than I used to and complete more titles. This includes side content within longer RPGs that I would previously skip.

It wasn’t always this way though. Before I came out, I had unknowingly internalised toxic gamer(TM) culture while trying to feel comfortable in my assigned gender. This included playing games, including problematic moe crap, on the default or higher difficulty because it was “the way it’s meant to be played.” I frequently dropped games mid way through due as a result and avoided games with “politics” in them. This was compounded by my attempt to crack games journalism professionally via a site that enabled this toxicity. This meant a lot of trauma built up over time. I wasn’t enjoying my hobby, nor truly belonged with a community of bigots. Because gaming was my passion, I couldn’t abandon it contrary to the myth mentioned.

I redirected my passion into something positive by:

  • Be honest with myself about what I actually felt about my gaming hobbies and took action
  • Moved myself from toxic circles into more inclusive circles
  • Allocated my gaming time and money towards said feminine games
  • Using appropriate accessibility features and lower difficulty settings
  • As the euphoria builds up and continues to affirm, past trauma begins to heal and I relearned to enjoy my passion
  • Interest in toxic circles and problematic moe games decline
  • Abandoned games journalism as a career, but would like to do gaming content on my terms down the line
  • Developed more passions as a result, becoming a more rounded person

It is a similar process for a lot of hobbies – likewise between other trans people.

Any change that happens is out of personal choice or necessity

This is the crucial thing. When trans people make these conscious changes to their hobbies, they only do it because they want or need to. Not because society or individuals tell them to, unless its potentially detrimental to their life. We should support them in doing so, especially as for trans autistic people, passions are critical

Milla xx

P.S. If you enjoyed this post and have the financial means to do so, please consider sending a donation to me on my Ko-fi to help me stabilise my life and start my medical transition. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading!

What Gender Euphoria Feels Like

(Featured image description: A blue sky with clouds and the word “happy” written in it. Below is a smile.)

Hi all, 

Today I’d like to talk about something that is poorly understood about transitioning gender. Simply put, I’d like to talk a bit about gender euphoria. 

Gender euphoria, as defined by the Urban Dictionary, offers a few different meanings: 

The feeling a trans person gets when he/she/they can start presenting as the gender they identify as and people start treating them accordingly.

Or this one:

The opposite of gender dysphoria. Of a cisgender person, it is a state of happiness about being male or female and having the associated gender roles and body parts.  Of a transgender person, it refers to feeling great about living as your desired gender. 

(There is a third meaning on the page, but it’s nonsense clearly submitted by somebody with no clue. Hence it has been mass downvoted so I won’t include it here.)

So how would I define it for me? I would define it as some kind of buzz I get when I am embracing my true gender role – that of a woman. But I also define it as an affirmation that transitioning was the right thing for me. 

The buzz is hard to describe. It’s kind of like – a deep feeling of happiness that overcomes me. It can feel like I have goosebumps but not in a bad way as it greatly lifts my mood. 

I got this feeling initially through things like shaving my body hair, trying on women’s clothes as well as putting on makeup. This is although I would not pass in any capacity back then as I would have to learn how to do it all properly and appropriately. This progressed to times when I am correctly gendered by strangers in public and weirdly when I am wolf-whistled by creepy dudes on the other side of the road. Which putting aside the fact that is wrong and does also make me uncomfortable, it’s affirming in its own weird way. 

People in my life to this day still believe I am confused about my gender because I am not presenting in a way they deem to be feminine. Yes, I look feminine but some of my movements may appear masculine (thanks to gendered socialisation and also because I’m openly autistic, which is seen as a cis male-only thing still by many). However, they are wrong, and gender euphoria is how I know why. Gender euphoria that occurs specifically in trans people is something that cis people will never truly understand first hand, even if they are very supportive of trans rights. That is ok – especially as they are often the enablers of the trans person feeling euphoria in the first place. 

Even now, I still sometimes get that sense of euphoria when I see a good view of myself when I’m out and about or I notice some other positive change with my body or health. I have spent the last two years growing out my hair for instance and now it is up to a length that I am happy with. I also started an internship recently and I put on my work badges to help me communicate my needs (alongside other badges that reflect things about me).

I ended up taking a picture as I had one of the most genuinely happy smiles on my face that I haven’t had for some time, maybe ever. It didn’t look feminine at all but I couldn’t stop myself from smiling in such a way as it was completely natural and completely me. I felt happy as I was finally being true to myself and expressing myself openly as the woman I really am. I’ve been full time for a few months at least now and have no intentions of stopping that any time soon.

I do not think this will be the last time either especially as I will continue to experience new things now, I feel I am reborn again. One instance will be when I am eventually on HRT and can start undergoing my second puberty and hopefully grow breasts. I don’t want to dwell on the access issues I’ll have to get this – not today anyway – because I am working on that. But in the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy the new life I have while working towards all of my goals, one day at a time. 

Even if that means capturing memories of even the most random of euphoric times like the photo below one morning on my way to work. 

Image description: Selfie of Milla, a young woman with shoulder length curly brown hair, posing for a mirror selfie in a disabled toilet. She is wearing vintage glasses and a white coat.

Here’s to many more years of happiness.

Milla xx