The Employment Dilemma for Trans + Disabled People

Featured image description: The default featured image for Trans Autistic Feminist blogposts, with a pink background on the left and blog logo on the right. The white text on the left says the blog title “The Employment Dilemma for Trans + Disabled People”.

Content warning: ableism, transphobia, masking, ABA mention

Hi all, 

I’ve had a lot to process regarding employment as of late, so I will be writing a bit about what’s on my mind so other people can understand the dilemmas of disabled and/or trans people entering employment. Despite having the time and willpower to work, it’s a lot easier said than done. 

As a disabled person, I have to ensure whatever career move I take next is suitable for me. While I’m not sure of the exact area I want to work in, I am pretty open to anything as long as it’s accessible for me. So, in other words, an office job I can do from home at least part-time and where I don’t have to talk to people much.

Note that the disability angle will mainly focus on autism as that is my lived experience, but there will be a lot of overlap with other disabilities and mental illnesses.

To disclose or not to disclose? 

This is the first issue. This question can be broken down even more to the following sub-questions:

  • Is the workplace safe to be openly trans and/or autistic?
  • How much does somebody have to disclose to employers to be able to work the job? 
  • How much is OK to share in general? 

More specifically, when it comes to disability, the main issue is accommodations. The more somebody can conceal their support needs, the fewer problems at work they may have to deal with (including being fired and/or not hired). This can also include coping with trauma and mental health triggers, which will often have negative consequences for the person’s career – even if they don’t harm anyone. 

A lot of disabled people hide their disabilities from employers as a result and advise others do the same – as employers can quickly get away with being ableist, despite initiatives. For example, the UK’s Disability Confident scheme is widely discredited in the disability community, partially because the guarantee of an interview to all disabled people who meet the criteria isn’t enforced. Additionally, all a company has to do if they don’t want to hire a disabled person is to claim that “they’ve found somebody who is a better cultural fit” and move on. 

If a disabled person does try to hold their employer to account – whether during recruitment or unfair dismissal – the odds are stacked against them. This is partially due to a lack of legal aid, but also because it risks them being blacklisted from other firms. Employers don’t want people that they think would cause them hassle, and sharing too much is not a good idea, as it can be used against them later. 

Of course, hiding disabilities is only really possible for those with invisible disabilities – as, for people with visible disabilities who need aids, this isn’t an option for them. 

Work relationships vs personal relationships boundaries: 

This is something else I have also struggled to understand. What is appropriate for what relationship? When is it OK to move people from colleagues to friends? How do you deal with social media? What is “professionalism?” 

There are no fixed rules regarding this that people follow aside from vague generalisations that depend on culture and industry contexts. There are also general business expectations of behaviour (like relying on Outlook) that employees are expected to instinctively pick up, which is impossible for any autistic people to do (I will return to this later). 

The other expectation is for people that can act as neurotypical as possible (aka so they see you as pleasant and can collaborate with them). All of this can be very difficult for autistic people to pick up. Likewise, things like networking and people to avoid working with are usually found out via the grapevine (especially for abusers). The grapevine is something autistic people find difficult to access. I started to learn some of these things myself before being let go from my last internship, even though a lot of this stuff (in hindsight) feels like things all autistic people should directly be told years before starting work. 

I say this from the perspective of somebody who has unintentionally self-sabotaged career opportunities due to not knowing social rules or accidentally blundering when trying to talk to people regarding work opportunities. The fear I have about this is that I feel I risk being blacklisted by others on ableist grounds then not finding out why until many months later – if at all. Even then, once a person or organisation is blacklisted, it’s very likely the blacklisting will not be reversed for years if at all as there is often no chance of appeal. 

Yet, nobody has ever been able to offer advice for dealing with this, so the only conclusion I could think of is to strictly partition work relationships from personal relationships unless certain circumstances mean it’s a good idea to cross them over. For example, if a personal friend helps someone get a job, they start a business venture together, or somebody makes a genuine friend at work that they get along with over a sustained period. This includes social media.

The minefield of inclusivity 

While there are genuinely inclusive and supportive employers out there, the reality is that it is a minefield and often the most challenging part of employment is sustaining it, not getting it. There is no real way for disabled employees to know which employers genuinely care about inclusivity and diversity – or only get the credentials for PR purposes (such as the very organisers of the Disability Confident scheme themselves). Hence, many disabled people go freelance and/or unemployed, so they can work while also accommodating their support needs as best as they can. 

A lot of inclusivity issues also stem from not understanding how mainstream office culture can cause problems for autistic people. For example, I saw this article today (“Will young workers be the victims of the decline in the office?” 13/09/2020) in The Independent, which discusses whether young people will be the victims of the declining office. It’s an article that argues yes, but completely omits the experiences of disabled adults. 

One example is the following belief, something that is impossible for many autistic and other neurodivergent people to do without direct communication: 

“There are also lots of benefits to informal interaction – something a prearranged video call cannot replicate,” he says, pointing to the ability of new employees in an office to directly observe how colleagues behave, pick up important information, absorb the unwritten rules of the organisation and even its ethical values.” 

Another example is this, something that can lead to discrimination towards women and marginalised groups in the right environment, as well as forcing out disabled people who cannot participate in office politics or social culture.

“Gosling is more concerned about the challenge of retaining the benefits from the social aspects of traditional office life – the gossip, the chats, the collective visits to the pub.” 

In essence, the inaccessibility and deeply rooted ableism in office life already claimed tens of millions of disabled people at some point.

In a way, getting a career going forward will now be more accessible thanks to neurotypicals finally understanding the benefits of working from home. This was thanks to a pandemic, even though they should have listened to disabled people years ago.

Personally, I am incredibly thrilled office culture will never be the same again and is declining. Hence employment will now be easier for neurodivergent people to access. However, employers need to understand they must not force neurotypical abled standards on employees. They still need to listen to disabled people. I am happy to help people I’d work with down the line to a point, but a lot of it is on them. And not knowing what the reaction will be till I’m in the role is a massive source of anxiety. 

Here is an article I wrote back in April 2020 about COVID-19, home working and ableism. 

To go stealth or not go stealth? 

The other issue that is noticeable for trans people is about transitioning and how to balance that around employers. A lot of trans people often prepare to change jobs when they come out, so future employers aren’t aware that they have a trans employee. Many trans people also aren’t able to work as a result of untreated dysphoria and/or transphobia from employers, thus are stuck in the trap of not having the money required to transition. 

Hence, many trans people choose to be stealth at work – especially those with passing privilege – for their own safety and so they can get the money to transition. When it comes to medical appointments and other transition-related care, they may choose to lie or omit information about why they need time off. They may also not speak about their personal lives much to avoid outing themselves by mistake. 

There is also the whole issue regarding surgery and taking time off for that, though I don’t know enough about this to discuss that here.

Additionally, there are two legal barriers in the UK regarding transgender employees I’d like to highlight as they are also factoring into my thinking (and will also be variants of this issue worldwide): 

No GRC means trans people in the UK have to out themselves to HR 

This is because of two reasons: 

Firstly, if a trans person hasn’t updated their documents or they are coming out at their current job, their team will know. This includes HR and other staff who see misgendered/deadnamed documents as part of ID verification. Passport/driving licenses are what is asked at interviews, and this can be updated with each respective office using a different process. This doesn’t mean a trans person won’t be outed to their employer, though. 

This is because the legal gender at HMRC can only be changed with a gender recognition certificate, and there is nothing a trans person without a GRC and/or unable to get one can do. At my last job, when I had to fill in a form for my employer to log my info into HMRC with, I initially put down F because that’s who I am. LI later got summoned to HR, and they told me that they had to change the gender marker to M as my F marker doesn’t match what is on the database. Hence, I had to change it back so it could be submitted to HMRC so I could get paid. It was demoralising for me, but my employer knew I am trans already and was discreet about it, so no harm was done in my case. But that isn’t the case for everyone. 

This is a problem that all trans people in the UK face unless they get a GRC, which is one of many reasons there were calls to reform the GRA (where have we heard this before?). 

No GRC means trans people starting their own companies is also risky 

Yes, there is a loophole with self-employment too. The following applies to trans people who start their own company and become a company director or majority shareholder (referred to in UK law as “People with Significant Control”). This is because the current procedures mean trans people legally have to be outed by Companies House upon request due to an obscure legal loophole. This is explained by the following quote from page 59 of the 2019 Corporate Transparency and Register Reform consultation document

“The Companies Act 2006 requires any change of a director’s name to be notified to Companies House and made publicly available on the register. This also applies to [People with Significant Control] (PSC). This includes cases where the person’s name changes as a result of a change in gender. Section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 makes it an offence to disclose information about the gender history of transgender people who have legally changed their gender through obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) where this information has been acquired in an official capacity. However, section 22(4)(j) provides an exemption where the disclosure is made under another enactment. Companies House is exempt from this general prohibition because it makes information public in accordance with the Companies Act 2006.” 

One of the many proposed reforms in the 2019 Corporate Transparency and Register Reform that would allow trans directors and PSCs to apply to have their name hidden. But as of September 2020, the consultation still hasn’t had its results released. Sounds familiar, even though this is the only mention in the entire document. The loophole around this is to become a sole trader, although this does bring the risk of unlimited liability. Which in the world where anti-trans bigots threaten to sue people who call them out often forces trans folk into silence. 

Additionally, for transgender people who are in work, many also intend to pass as cis as part of maintaining a working relationship. Because while cis men do not take cis women and cis passing trans people seriously, they take non-cis passing trans people even less seriously.

Hence this is a scenario where the transgender concept of passing and the autism concept of masking overlap – and both of these issues will take its toll on trans and autistic employees. I also wrote about this ages ago, here is a relevant extract. Note that body language and presentation are two things considered very important in the world of work, and women have it particularly hard. The world of work – without relevant adjustments – also enforces the narrative mentioned in the last paragraph.

Firstly, with being autistic I am not always aware how I come across. So, if my body language doesn’t appear feminine, I likely have no idea that’s the case. Furthermore, even when I try to present feminine it will be very hard to maintain the image as I fundamentally can’t mask.

Additionally, executive dysfunction may also get in the way which may make daily feminine tasks difficult, such as doing makeup to cover up facial hair and shaving body hair. Plus, I have seen cis autistic women that find it difficult to meet these standards or choose not to. It would be very unfair on them to be judged by these same arbitrary standards. 

However, I then realised how much this is similar to masking – and how there is still the widespread ableist assumption that autistic people need to mask to be accepted in wider society. I have talked about this before. We see this pervasive attitude in wider culture and through how ABA is being forced on autistic children from a young age in an attempt to “normalise” them with no regard for their mental wellbeing. 

And the reason why both passing and masking are problematic is because they blame the autistic trans person for their own differences. Basically, the narrative says that both autistic people and trans people alike (regardless of whether they are both autistic and trans) aren’t good enough as they are. In other words, the narrative says they are not who they identify as, they are what other people decide they are.

My personal, less objective, conclusion

The conclusions I’ve tentatively come to is that it is very tempting to conceal my gender and disability-related support needs as much as possible. I don’t like the thought of having to go stealth at work about these aside from: 

  • HMRC stuff as outlined above 
  • Any time off requests for medical transition appointments 
  • accommodations that aren’t vital for the job 
  • Anything else that my employer needs to know and that I can’t get away with not disclosing. 

Bear in mind much of this stems from avoidable trauma I got from people I have disclosed and been open to. And frankly, I do not have the energy to deal with that going forward, despite the thick skin I developed from it. While I am moving on and slowly mitigating the trauma, trying to mitigate further harm and obstacles is very important to me. However, I am hoping that as time goes by I will feel more able to take the risk of disclosing my needs again and being open like before (but not too open as oversharing is also something I did at my last role).

I know that masking in work like that would likely be very damaging for me as it is for many autistic people, and being myself is vital for motivation. I love who I am and am proud of myself and everything I have achieved, and I shouldn’t have to hide that. 

In hindsight, I overshared at my last role about said issues – again, partially due to trauma and disassociation – which may have factored in being let go. I am grateful to my previous employer for treating me as well as they did because I could have been treated a lot worse. 

I am still contemplating self-employment. As much as I’d like to be self-employed, that could take years to become sustainable enough to migrate, so I may end up having to do a Masters just to help me get out of England. Which in all honesty isn’t a good enough reason by itself, but depending on what I do may be useful in other ways too. Fortunately, I am open to pretty much anything work-wise I can do.  

Regardless of what I decide to do, I just want to get this employment dilemma worked out and mastered so I can medically transition, get my life stabilised and get out of this country for good. I don’t regret being open to the extent I was – and I’m glad I was as it was the right thing to do at the time.

The more objective conclusion

In short, there are a lot of structural barriers to work that have been touched on in this piece. Some of them can be helped by the world of work – to any employers reading this, please listen to your disabled staff and work to make your workplace genuinely inclusive. Please do not follow the same mindset like the person from the Independent article. Please allow form policies allowing trans people to take the time off they need for essential appointments, and do not allow transphobia to take hold in your organisation.

Hopefully, anybody who has taken the time to read this now understands many of the systematic barriers that trans and/or disabled people face regarding re-entering employment. Despite my personal anxieties, I am confident I can find a way forward, and I believe I’ll be in a much better position next year. 

Milla xx 

PS I recently set up a crowd funder to help kickstart my medical transition privately. Please consider donating to it if you have something to spare. You can view it here. If not, no worries. Thank you so much for reading! 

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’s in a Name? – Redux –

Hi, I’m Milla.

I finally got around to doing something I’ve thought about doing for a while – rebranding my blog.

On this blog, I will be focusing primarily on my lived experience of being autistic and trans going forward. I’ve been doing this for the last year or so without changing the name, but now it is official.

More specifically, I aim to blog about:

– Lived experiences, particularly as I work to rebuild my life
– Rambles that will be looked at from the lense of lived experience and intersectionality
– Political rambles, mainly around UK politics but would like to do more
– Guides and advice (ie. For transitioning in the UK)
– Anything else that wouldn’t get aired in UK mainstream media
– Links to any other things I do

Why the change?

I used to focus primarily on autism but moved away from that over time. This is mainly because the experiences of those percieved as autistic boys is very well trodden ground if it does not include a trans perspective. Therefore some originality is needed. This revamp symbolises this and makes it more official.

I am also hoping to primarily channel my online political thoughts (and more serious posts) onto my blog alongside positivity so that social media is a more positive space for myself and others. This doesn’t mean I’ll be spamming politics blogposts but what it is mean is that I can consolidate my thoughts better.

I have gone back and corrected pronouns on older blogposts as well as deleted some that don’t reflect who I sm today or I wish to rewrite (such as my blogpost on being aspec, which now I’ve transitioned I am unsure if I still feel the same way). So some reposts will go up at some point.

Why the change?

When I first started almost three years ago, I was anonymous because I was a socially anxious mess. I had no idea who I really was and internalised a lot of problematic beliefs. This was mainly due to being mistreated growing up and hence becoming vulnerable to toxic crowds as a result. I also wasn’t engaged with the disability community much so struggled to meet my needs but was also unaware of the diverse range of lived experience out there. I preferred anonymity as a result of my circumstances then, hence I chose the pseudonym Subtle.

Nowadays, Milla is proud to be themselves largely due to what I realised, discovered and learnt since starting this blog. I’m confident in who I am and despite everything, life has never been better. That said, I don’t have patience for bullshit and will be quite direct with that. I’m trans. I’m autistic. I’m an intersectional feminist. I don’t speak for everyone with my lived experience but said experiences are part of who I am.

Here is the new logo (with image description):

ID: The logo for Trans Autistic Feminist. The logo consists of a “Light it Up Gold” neurodiversity helic on top of a black trans symbol. The background is pink and the blog title “Trans Autistic Feminist” is written in purple below.

Here is a sample featured image with image description):

ID: A sample featured image for “Trans Autistic Feminist.” On the right is the blog logo which is identical to what is in the above logo image.

To the left is white text in front of a pink background that will be the title of the blogpost. This one says “Noise-Cancelling Liberation.”

I have also changed the layout a bit to reflect this change, but at the time of writing is still a work in progress.

I hope y’all continue to stick around.

Best,
Milla xx

On the Subject of Trans Women, Refuges + Terf Dogwhistles

Featured image description: Rows of makeshift beds in a large, well-lit room. The duvets are in are various colours.

CN for transphobia, terf discussion – including direct quotes from a terf blogpost, domestic abuse, trauma, death mention, detransition rhetoric, ableism, gaslighting, toxic masculinity

Hi all, 

Today is going to be quite a long post for many reasons. Mainly that I’m going to address the elephant in the room in the eyes of terfs – about trans women accessing “single-sex spaces” – including women’s refuges. This is from the perspective of somebody who got barred from one when feeling domestic abuse. I am now only just able to start coming to terms with this as I finally escaped my abusers. Furthermore, with the recent news that the UK government plan to roll back trans rights this year (starting with trans kids), I feel now is the time to publish this.

This is a lengthy blogpost as I’m going to detail things extensively – not just my personal experiences. There are also screenshots and quotes from transphobes – because yes, despite what people want to claim transphobia is still an issue in women’s refuges. While there are women’s refuges that are inclusive of trans people, there are a lot who aren’t.  

My escape was a long time coming due to many systematic barriers I faced. Here is a link to that post, so I don’t have to go into detail again here.  

So why am I writing a blog post on this specifically? Well, it’s for two reasons – firstly, so myself and others can source this article where appropriate because the voices of trans women are being silenced (ironically from those complaining they are being silenced, which is nonsense).

Secondly, because I wish to elaborate on the above a bit more as it was only through time that I was able to accept that I was rejected on the grounds of transphobia. I had previously thought it was just because they didn’t feel they could support me for any other reasons. This post also clarifies a lot of the dog whistles transphobes use – whether they are terfs or just random people spreading rhetoric they don’t understand.  

That said, the refuge as well as the staff I engaged with there are kept anonymous in this piece.  

The critical thing to remember is the trans women’s needs are often similar to cis women’s  

There is much misunderstanding about the needs of trans women and what being trans is. Hence a lot of beliefs services users have are rooted in transphobia whether they realise it or not.  

Trans feminine people generally wish to be treated like cis women. This is because the way wider society perceives us means that we are victims of systematic sexism and misogyny from those around us. This often includes years of mistreatment from cis men – often for prolonged periods of time in very similar aspects that cis women face – especially when other marginalisations are involved ie. Disability and race.  

This is something that affects all feminine presenting people, especially those that “pass” as a cis woman. Here is what I mean: 

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Thursday August 8th 2019 at 12:03pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

“Hi Milla,
 
Please can you email me the information we discussed yesterday. It may not be appropriate to see you at the centre but I am looking into further support for you.
Kind regards,
[redacted], Liason Worker”

“It may not be appropriate to see you at the centre” is vague and was probably said to try to hedge the bad news. This was the first red flag, hence I enquired.

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Thursday August 8th 2019 at 20:06pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

Hi [Liason Worker],

I have attached two files – a copy of [redacted] as well as a log of all the recent things that have happened, updated to today.
 
Could you please explain to me what you mean by “it may not be appropriate to see you at the centre?”
 
Kind regards,
Milla [redacted]

Note that I am supplying sensitive information, including logs – one of the critical things domestic abuse survivors have to compile. How exactly is it “inappropriate” that a trans woman is trying to access support?  

This person then replied with the following:  

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Friday August 9th 2019 at 2:05pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

“Hi Milla,
 
Thank you for the information I will look at it and discuss the best course of action in conjunction with our Advice Worker. Our transgender policy states that we can only engage face to face contact with a women who is past the surgical stage of her transition. This said I am very concerned about the information you have shared with me and feel you need more support. We will be able to offer phone support and possible sign posting to another agency. We have no intention in giving up on your case but your situation is unique to us and we need to offer you the most appropriate support possible.
 
I will be in touch soon
 
Kind regards
[redacted], Liason Worker”

I would like to draw particular attention to this quote – “Our transgender policy states we can only engage face-to-face contact with a women who is past the surgical stage of her transition.”  

This is why the refuge rejected me. It wasn’t a case of “may not” – it was “was not,” but I had to push for an answer. The problems with this policy – assuming it’s genuine – is that it’s completely unrealistic only to accept post-op trans people. Somebody’s genitals don’t come into this frankly unless people know about it – or suspect that somebody is trans even though said judgements are often very inaccurate. It is a de-facto benchmark for what many think qualifies someone as transgender – and frankly, this obsession with what genitals a trans person has by cis people is quite creepy.  

In reality, it is not a realistic benchmark to maintain even on a purely practical level. For example, in the UK, trans people have to wait years before they can even have an initial appointment, let alone a surgery consultation. This is because of the long waiting times, horrendous gatekeeping that leads to wasted appointments and the overall administrative nightmare that system is. The only real way to get medical treatment in the UK promptly and safely is to go private. In the case of surgery, this usually means going abroad. For many trans people – especially those from poorer backgrounds – going private isn’t an option. I did call this out (though not in much detail). 

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Friday August 9th 2019 at 2:05pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

Hello [redacted],
 
Thank you for getting back to me.
 
I am really confused as to why this policy is in place. It’s not my fault I haven’t even had the opportunity to discuss surgery with a professional (and won’t for at least 4-5 years unless I go private) and would also discriminate against me if I decided against surgery. This policy also discriminates against intersex people who happen to present feminine/grow up feminine and have a penis.
 
I know this is legal under the Equality Act (so long as the purpose is to achieve a “legitimate aim” which I assume is the case here) so I am not surprised that this has come up. I would appreciate an explanation to calm my anxiety. I’m worried if I am kicked out of my home I may have to go somewhere where predatory cis men are such as mixed gender homeless shelters (and that would be genuinely dangerous for me because [redacted].
 
I would be and feel safest within a women’s refuge especially as I want and need to be treated like a cis woman as much as possible. Is this kind of policy typical for women’s refuges? If I was on hormones already, could fully pass as a cis woman and had breasts as a result of HRT I probably would never have disclosed I’m trans in light of this.
 
I also would find traveling to a refuge further away difficult especially if I’m in a meltdown which is what would most likely happen if I am kicked out of [redacted] before I have somewhere to go. [rest of this paragraph has been redacted].
 
Am I right in assuming the appointment I booked for [redacted] is cancelled as a result? I see no point keeping it if I would not be allowed into the refuge to talk face-to-face due to this policy.
 
Apologies for all of the questions and the bombardment of my anxiety-ridden thoughts. I also apologise if there are contractual obligations in place that mean you aren’t able to provide me with answers in depth or at all. Feel free to ignore certain questions if you can’t answer them.
 
Kind regards,
Milla [redacted]

I was a bit of a trauma mess with this response as I wasn’t fully processing what was going on. Primarily because – at the time – I was not used to travelling extensively across the UK, and I feared what would happen if I had to leave (see the fourth paragraph). But I was quite clear I was scared and reading this back it’s heartbreaking. Though for anybody trying to access services, oversharing fears, intimate details and triggers are essential to get taken seriously.  Here is their final reply to me:

Image is of an email from a worker at the refuge sent on Friday August 9th 2019 at 2:05pm. Parts of the email have been censored to protect privacy. The rest of the text says:

“Hi Milla,

My colleague is currently reading your information. We agree that we need to complete a DASH ( a risk assessment on your safety) which we will do over the phone. Once this is completed, we will know where to refer you to. We are thinking [redacted] who can offer outreach support.
 
Anyone going to refuge would need to move out of area which I know will not work for you. Sadly, refuges are biologically gender specific for safety reasons.
 
As a women’s centre we are only funded to work with biological women but we are more than willing to support you over the phone as we will not turn away an individual who needs help. We are approaching your case with sensitivity and are trying to offer you as much support as we are able.
 
Are you willing to complete a risk assessment over the phone? We offer this service to women so we are not discriminating against you or offering you a lesser service. My colleague [redacted] is able to offer you a phone appointment on [redacted]. This would be in place of the scheduled face to face appointment next Friday.
 
I have left a voice mail with [redacted] but have not heard anything back. I will chase them again next week. If you hear from them please let us know.
 
I hope this answers some of your questions.
 
Kind regards,
[redacted], Liaison Worker

They offered the risk assessment – but I never emailed them again after this because I was devastated. Hence, I didn’t have the assessment, and subsequently, my escape is now even further away. It was not long after this that I felt I needed to look for a job to escape of which I did get one. But I was ultimately let go from the job which was inevitable.  

There are also mentions in here about biology and safety, which are no doubt rooted in believing myths about trans people. For example:  

“Sadly, refuges are biologically gender specific for safety reasons.”  

“As a women’s centre we are only funded to work with biological women”  

Here are some articles that debunk the gender binary and the idea that they “biological men/women” myths, because they are not accurate. Many people who believe in the gender binary are uninformed due to what they are taught in school but don’t care. However, there are people that use the myth as an argument to roll back trans rights and enforce strict gender rules. This is ultimately the goal of transphobes – whom are mainly conservative people.  

Article 1: https://qz.com/1007198/the-myth-that-gender-is-binary-is-perpetuated-by-a-flawed-education-system/   

Article 2: https://medium.com/@QSE/the-xx-xy-lie-our-social-construction-of-a-sex-and-gender-binary-4eed1e60e615  

It’s examples like this that support the reality that the majority of cis women support trans women but lack the understanding to provide proper support. Perhaps if service staff had improved training, then they would feel more able to deal with trans women as many do not need as much specialist support as people think. This is what I initially thought – as it is not incorrect – and used to justify to myself why the refuge excluded me as there was no more evidence either way. 

I will further discuss this on page 2.

For Trans People, Legal Recognition is Important. Here’s Why

Featured image description: A variety of colourful passports for many different countries including the UK, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Denmark.

CN in blog post for misgendering, transphobia discussion

Hi all,

Today is gonna be a fairly short post compared to normal a few reasons – one of which is my personal situation, but also because…

…I am finally legally female on my passport.

This is a really big deal for me for a few reasons as now the gender marker on it matches how I present. But to help others understand the importance of this I’m gonna explain a bit more on a general level in today’s post before I go and celebrate.

So why are legally correct documents like passports a big deal for a trans person?

Safety

This is the obvious one. Somebody who has to supply ID for anything can now show a document without the worry of being outed. It’s a form of protection as many cis people place great importance on what documents say. It is part of the quick judgements that people make when they serve people in a shop – such as when checking ID to buy age-restricted products.

Other people use it as an argument to invalidate people’s gender identities and by being able to change it makes their argument completely null. This is because many cis people would otherwise agree as they place great importance on cis people recognising somebody being trans (which isn’t ok but is a whole other thing).

Ability to travel more easily

Another reason is being able to travel abroad and emigrate more easily as a correctly gendered passport is less likely to cause issues when trying to get through customs control. This means travelling becomes a lot more viable for trans people again as before the options were limited to domestic travel as well as certain other legal arrangements where border checks are reduced (ie. Within the EU).

If the gender marker matches how somebody presents, customs officers are much more likely to let people through without any issues. Whereas if somebody presents a passport with a marker that doesn’t match how they present (ie. A trans woman with a passport that says M under sex/gender), they will likely run into issues including having to out themselves to strangers.

Of course, this issue does not apply where transphobia is widespread and/or has been illegalised in law even for those that have fully transitioned – however, most trans people wouldn’t risk going to many of these places (ie. The Middle East) anyway.

That said, the exception of this relates to for the nonbinary X gender marker in countries that aren’t super LGBTQ+ friendly and gender diversity is embraced. For this reason, I personally wouldn’t get one despite identifying as non-binary. However, the option should be made available because for some this is not something they can overlook.

To overcome systematic barriers

Additionally, and most importantly, a correctly gendered passport can allow for some of the barriers trans people face being systematically overcome. For me, I am now finally able to move forward with my homelessness situation as my misgendered passport was only one of many systematic barriers I was facing. The anxiety it caused stopped me from getting anywhere with housing.

It also depends on the laws of individual countries. In the UK, the path to getting a passport’s gender marker legally changed is much easier than getting a Gender Recognition Certificate. For the former, you only need a specifically worded doctor’s letter as evidence, whereas the latter needs considerably more documents. It was why there were previous plans to reform the Gender Recognition Act.

As I write this, the GRA reforms in the UK have been stalled outside of Scotland so it is unlikely the process for getting a GRC will be made any easier. However, in practice, few situations will ever require somebody to show their birth certificate when an updated passport or driving license will be sufficient instead. So as long as trans people in the UK can find a doctor willing to write them this letter, they have a way to go around most of the barriers an incorrect birth certificate will cause. This is in the UK, I can’t speak for other countries where the processes are different.

Hence, in conclusion

Being able to change gender markers on legal documents is life-saving. This means that the processes in each country must be made more accommodating for others, including trans youth as well as for non-binary identities. And by extension for foreigners too including those seeking naturalisation or even just to visit as tourists.

For me personally, my legal transition is effectively complete aside from the GRC which I may return to in the future if I do need to get it but in day to day life I’m covered at this point. The right for somebody to have documents that match the life they live is everyone’s right.

That’s all for today,

Milla xx (now legally female as of 07/02/2020)

Featured image source: In the image on top right corner naming Shuttlestock account CNN Money

When You’re Trans, Autistic and Homeless, Finding a Place to Live is Almost Impossible

CN for transphobia, ableism, abuse, legal discrimination, intrusive questions, executive function

Hi all,

Apologies for the inactivity on here for the last several weeks. Today I’m going to talk a bit about the issues I’ve had accessing housing – which is something I’ve had to deal with extensively over the last several months. In short, my living situation at home with my parents became toxic (mainly due to blatant transphobia, ableism and overall abuse, but that’s for another time). The major reason it took me so long to leave home were because I am hitting systematic barriers that makes it difficult for me to access any form of help. That’s not just my words. It’s the words of one of many housing support staff I’ve been in contact with. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

I’m going address them one by one:

Fear of the unknown:

One of the major things that stopped me from leaving sooner was the anxiety caused by the uncertainty of what would happen next once I leave. Where would I go and who would I stay with? How would I be able to cope on the streets if that came to pass? In a way, staying in the toxic household is better due to the routine and certainty of having a place to sleep. This is one reason autistic people find it difficult to escape abusive situations in general.

Most housing services have inaccessible contact methods:

Due to all the stress my functioning ability had decreased significantly. One way this showed is that I could no longer use the phone even to call people I had called before already. This meant I could not access emergency accommodation in my area for one as all of them had phone numbers only and email addresses are harder to find if they are publically available.

Additionally, when I did email housing services they are either slow to reply or don’t reply at all. This included a UK LGBT housing charity I referred myself to in good faith they’d get back to me but they never did. If a housing provider does not offer an accessible contact method they are from the fact excluding those with disabilities from applying to their services and condemning them to their deaths as a result.

Additionally, emergency accommodation is potentially unsafe for marginalised people because of the chances of being trapped in an even more toxic environment. This applies to the physical environment as well as potentially the people staying there. Hence not being able to verify this in advance means it’s a no-go for many people.

Women’s refuge services have transphobic policies:

Here is a bit of a sticky topic. In the UK’s Equality Act 2010, there are legitimate exceptions in the Act that let services to discriminate against minorities if it’s a “proportionate means to achieve a legitimate aim.” This includes potential discrimination against trans people when accessing refuges on the grounds of their gender. Or more specifically, their genitals. When i tried to get access to a women’s refuge in the summer, I visited once to sign up, but I had to disclose I’m transgender in part because the form required it – but also because I did not fully pass at the time and there was no way I could have gotten away with lying on the form.

As a result, I got barred from face to face contact with the refuge as a result due to the fact I’m pre-op (irrespective of the facts that many trans people don’t have surgery and that surgery isn’t something I could get access to for years if at all). They did offer signposting and limited telephone/email support but it upset me so much I am turned off refuges for life. They told me that this is due to their policy which ended up being based on reasons relating to biological differences and safety concerns which shows fundamental misunderstanding of trans issues at best and bad faith transphobia at worst.

Not able to rent privately:

There are a few reasons for this and many of them relate to personal circumstances which I will not elaborate on. However, I will detail some notable issues that affect people like me in general. the biggest reason is because I was trying to hold down a full-time job. I gave up on getting help to escape in the summer so I ended up banking on the money from a job to help me move however this was not possible long-term.
I did not have the energy or executive function to juggle trying to find a room as well as full-time work with a commute. It was too much for me having had to spend my lunch breaks and much of my non-working hours recovering. This meant I could not view rooms and thus could not make any progress.

Other access issues are that I could not work out what listings on the housing sites like Spare Room were legitimate plus many landowners specifically ask people to call them to enquire. This meant I had a lot of access issues even finding places to view so contacting them were largely inaccessible just like housing services. That plus the ensuring anxiety and lack of support meant processing the listings for red flags became very difficult. Same applies for finding houses that are trans friendly.

Finally, there is another legal loophole that meant many more listings weren’t accessible to me. Many of the listings were by live-in landlords and if the “small premises exception” applies they can discriminate on all minority characteristics (bar race) under the guise of a “preference.”
The conditions where this applies are the following (based on the info here):

  • The landlord or a relative of theirs will be living in another part of the same property and intend to continue living there
  • The landowner (or their relative) share part of the property with the other residents. This doesn’t include common accessways (like corridors and stairs) and common storage areas
  • The most likely shared parts will be kitchens or bathrooms; and either:
  • The property includes accommodation for at least one other household, which is separately let, but cannot accommodate more than two other separately let households; or
  • The property is not normally sufficient to provide residential accommodation for more than six people (in addition to the landowner or their relative and their household members)

Seeing as many of the listings I found fit into those categories – alongside the fact I couldn’t pass fully then – meant that I had to rule out a lot of listings. As many landowners are older, more privileged cis people and thus more likely to misunderstand, I did not feel safe putting myself into that situation which is before considering my autism-related needs. I very highly doubt I am alone in this although I can’t confirm personally.

The system for finding accommodation for housing related support:

The current system in the UK for someone who needs housing support to fill out a form via the council stating the needs people have and where they’d like to stay. Then housing providers can view applications on their systems so that if they can contact the applicant to request an interview. I haven’t been to an interview so I don’t know how that goes down, just the initial application meeting for one provider. In that meeting I was asked more about my needs as well as what steps I’ve took to undergo transitioning which includes social, legal and medical. I didn’t particularly want to give any details on the medical side – and the person I saw was very apologetic about having to ask it – but I believe that is a requirement too. Regardless, in the end that didn’t go anywhere as they didn’t have room for me either. However that was only one provider so hopefully there are more out there.

Being declared as unintentionally homeless:

The gist of this is that if I’m declared as intentionally homeless, the council would not help me and this would affect what support I’d get. It’s the same for any homeless person even though the circumstances will be different each time. My circumstances of fleeing abuse is one of a few instances where somebody leaving home when they aren’t being kicked out is not becoming intentionally homeless. It did mean that me and my parents had to meet with a council rep to have some kind of “mediation” even though I knew going in it wasn’t going to be feasible. It was annoying but I entertained the mediation idea and it paid off.

Wider political context:

There is a housing shortage in the UK and has been for some time thanks to the Conservative party. Nowhere near enough affordable social housing exists as the demand for that considerably outstrips supply. The same also applies to supported housing and other types of accommodation. Additionally, there is a lot of homes that are lying empty due to being owned by the mega rich and not occupied. Hence even if I was not marginalised I would still have some problems.

With all the above said, the only option left for me for now is to sofa surf and frankly if I didn’t have friends to help I would have been in a seriously bad place. And being autistic and trans even having friends is a privilege because social anxiety and dysphoria makes it hard for friendships to form.

In some ways, my experiences with my friends the past couple of months have somewhat restored my faith in humanity because it shows that people will step up where they can. However, it also shouldn’t be this way and that’s sad. It’s one reason I’ve written this post because it’s this kind of first hand testimony that spreads awareness of these issues so legal reform can be done. Most people are not even aware of these issues in any real detail especially if they are not involved in the disability, LGBTQ+ or housing communities. Hence I am providing some of the detail.

For me personally, I don’t know what the future holds. I’m hoping to no longer be homeless by the end of this year but I really can’t say for sure yet. Regardless, hopefully 2020 will be a happier, more prosperous year for me. Happy New Year to you all and hopefully 2020 is just as prosperous for you too.

Kind regards,
Milla xx

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 

REVIEW: Uncomfortable Labels

Image description: A white label on a blue fabric. The fabric has black text on it that says “Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman.” The author’s name, Laura Kate Dale is written below as well as the letter “M.”

(Content warnings in article for suicide, bullying, ableism and transphobia.)

Note: The book itself also contains discussion of drugs and abusive situations (including sexual abuse) but neither of those are mentioned in this review.

Hi all, 

When you are either trans, gay or autistic, there are a lot of ways those identities can impact on somebody’s life whether they realise it or not. There is a need for information and support as to how best to live life with these identities. To the credit of the wider world, there is existing resources for those identities separately. However, there is a huge lack of resources out there about how these identities intersect. 

This was something I noticed as well as I came out as transgender and started my transition. How does being autistic impact being transgender? And how does being gay come into that as well? (Even though, full disclaimer I’m actually bisexual but can’t feasibly see myself dating a cis man). Essentially, people with this particular intersection are trying to learn about this with no real support. 

In the first published book of its kind by a reputable publisher, Uncomfortable Labels is the first widespread resource for fellow autistic trans people and their support networks to learn from. The author, Laura Kate Dale, came out and transitioned in early adulthood to her mid twenties. Additionally, she was also diagnosed with Aspergers (now folded into the overall “autistic spectrum disorder” diagnosis) in early adulthood. These key facts shape both the book’s structure and her story. 

There are three parts to this book. The first section covers Laura’s childhood and life pre-transition and pre-diagnosis. Some topics discussed here are quite surprising such as how Laura stimmed as a baby. However other experiences are not so surprising such as bullying she encountered from her peers. I say surprising as this kind of intimate detail is something I haven’t seen in a book for a long time especially from somebody who is so out in the public eye. 

Many of these experiences were things I could personally relate to such as feeling uncomfortable with sexist rhetoric by cis men as well as being shunned by girls due to presenting as male (despite feeling more socially connected with them). The most notable part for me though was the following quote: 

“So much of what society told me about being gay, trans or having autism painted a terrible picture of my future.” 

This is because I had the same thoughts at the age of 20 in 2018. So even though there was a sizable timeframe between Laura feeling this and me feeling this, it goes to show that not much has changed for it to be significant. It actually reminds me of a recent survey put out with regards to disability in general. As a result, this really helped maximise the overall impact the book had on me and I doubt I am alone in this. 

The second section addresses Laura’s life through transitioning and getting diagnosed with Aspergers. She addresses issues trans autistic people face accessing NHS healthcare such as the long waiting times (which have only gotten worse as of late). Things like socially transitioning are also touched upon too specifically about building a wardrobe, dealing with facial hair and wearing makeup (some things I struggle with too).  

I particularly liked how Laura mentioned little about how she medically transitioned and sees it as unimportant but for anyone but herself. This is a very good approach because it goes against the transphobic ideas many cis people have about feeling entitled to know intimate details about a trans person’s transition. This section closes out with some positivity towards trans women who cannot pass which is something that is needed in general (using media representations of trans women as an example). 

The final section is less a memoir and more a collection of essays that discuss certain aspects of being autistic and trans. This section is perhaps the most hard hitting of the book as one chapter discusses how Laura has had to learn to deal with her friends dying (usually by suicide) due to how discrimination against LGBT people is still rampant in modern society. Furthermore, Laura mentions how so many of her family and friends abandoned her upon coming out or were not fully supportive if they did. 

On a more positive note, Laura also discusses access issues autistic LGBT people have when it comes to events like Pride and nightclubs, including conflicting access needs (note: this term was not directly used, but it’s what she describes). Examples include sensory overload and dealing with safety issues at events. This is something that needs to be discussed as the mainstream LGBT culture excludes so many autistic trans people.

The analogy of autism friendly cinema screenings was a very effective way of communicating this. Calling for a wider variety of LGBT spaces like cafes was a very good call. This is something I support because I don’t have much interest in attending current LGBT events due to the loud and rowdy nature of many of them. We deserve quieter spaces too. Laura also mentions her very positive experiences in roller derby having been fully included in the sport by all her teammates. It was by far one of the most heartwarming part of the book. 

Even better, Laura frames many traits of being autistic in a positive way in a later chapter, saying “”I think it’s important we [talk about positives of being trans/autistic]… if people start to see trans status and autism as having positives rather than negative.. ..maybe it’d become apparent why there’s such a need for society to adapt and accommodate our existence.” This is exactly the kind of positivity we need and this book mostly delivers (I say mostly, I’ll elaborate a little later). 

Additionally, there is also a prologue at the start at the book which very helpfully explains key concepts of being autistic and transgender in an accessible manner. 

One of the best parts of the book is how Laura called out many of the myths about autism. For example, she calls out Simon Baron-Cohen’s controversial “extreme male brain” theory which has been detrimental to understanding autism in feminine presenting people. Later on, she also calls out the myth that autistic people don’t have empathy (when in reality most of us do, it is only a sizable minority of us that don’t). 

Similarly, she also does the same with regards to transgender myths. The myth that being trans is a trend is one of the myths called out. She correctly states that it’s transphobic beliefs that lead to trans people ending their lives, not as a result of pressure by wider society to be trans (which doesn’t exist). 

There are a couple of caveats though, Firstly, there isn’t much discussion of how being gay impacts things compared to being autistic and trans. However, as the impacts of being gay are already understood more than being autistic and/or trans, this isn’t a big loss. 

More notably, I found some of the terminology used to be a mixed bag. While a lot of the transgender terms were accurate (ie. Assigned male at birth) I noticed a few missteps with autism related terms. Person first language (ie. With autism) is used over identity first (ie. Autistic). This is fine if it’s Laura’s individual personal preference. However, as many autistic community prefer “autistic” it feels a bit out of touch for a major published book. I think both terms should be used interchangeably as has been the case in other published books. Here is more information on the subject.

At one point in Chapter 6, the phrase “suffers from autism” was used. The usage of this term perpetrates a harmful myth that being autistic leads to suffering when in reality ableism from others is what leads to suffering. Considering Laura calls out transphobic myths that argues the same thing but for being transgender, isn’t that a bit strange? This is something that should have been caught out in editing and slightly soured the book for me for a while. 

For the first book of its kind, it’s overall an excellent start. So much said in this book is correct and vital to add to the conversation. With a little bit of polish with regards to the terminology, this book would be perfect. However there needs to be more books covering a similar area so that others whom have different experiences to Laura can themselves find someone to relate to and learn from. Hopefully this happens sooner rather than later and for that to happen, I encourage people with the means to buy this book. 

That’s all for today. 

Milla xx 

What Does It Mean to be an Autistic Trans Woman?

(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)

Hi all, 

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.

Kind regards, 

Milla x 

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