This guest post by 4thWaveNow community member neverfallingforit is second in a series exploring the increasingly well known connection between autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and gender dysphoria (or other gender-related issues).
Many of us have shared observations that our kids show signs of ASD. Unfortunately, the current treatment paradigm tends to view ASD as no barrier to “transitioning” kids and young adults.
A word about the title of this post. The current approach fostered by WPATH is generally referred to as “watchful waiting” with regard to diagnosing younger children as transgender. While this sounds like a hands-off approach, in reality “watchful waiting,” to trans activists and many gender specialists, often includes the use of “preferred pronouns,” “social transition,” and (frequently) puberty blockers. Once these kids reach adolescence, “watchful waiting” ends and the path to full medical transition becomes available.
There is much that is still unexplored (and unstudied) about the impact of these supposedly benign interventions on actually helping to create a persistent transgender identity in children and young people. I’ll have more to say about this in a future post.
When my daughter first started identifying as transgender, I quickly and easily found articles online which posed a link between autism and gender identity issues. I bought the books Aspergirls by Rudy Simone and I am Aspiengirl by Tania A Marshall. At the back of each book there is a checklist of traits for girls with Asperger Syndrome, many of which I learned were different from those which appear in the male Asperger profile.
I also learned that formal research on the autistic female profile is relatively new, and as such, is years behind clinical and anecdotal observations. After reading the books, my daughter herself placed ticks next to a whole host of these traits, and I began to suspect that an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) was in the mix here somewhere. Several traits particularly jumped out at me:
- may have androgynous traits despite an outwardly feminine appearance. Thinks of herself as half-male/half-female (well balanced anima/animus)
- may not have a strong sense of identity and can be very chameleon-like, especially before diagnosis
- will not have many girlfriends and will not do “girly” things like shopping with them or have get-togethers to “hang out”
- emotionally immature and emotionally sensitive
- strong sensory issues – sounds, sights, smells, touch and prone to overload
- will have obsessions but they are not as unusual as her male counterpart (less likely to be a “trainspotter”)
After finding 4thWaveNow, I read that gender identity clinics are seeing a higher number of natal girls in their referrals than they would expect from previous epidemiological knowledge, and also that it is very common to find that these girls had autism spectrum characteristics. Some of the studies alluded to the fact that cultural factors could also be at play in the increasing referral rates.
As I read the comments on many of 4thWaveNow’s posts, I could see a profile emerging of a subset of teenage girls who had come to believe that they were born in the wrong body. Most had never previously mentioned gender dysphoric feelings to their parents, although many had never been “girly girls.” They often seem to share the same personality traits; traits which fitted right into the female Asperger profile. 4thWaves’s comprehensive article on autism discusses how autistic spectrum traits could lead to a transgender presentation and I could clearly see how this applied to my daughter.
What really caught my attention was how these girls also seemed to share the same cultural traits. My parental antennae kicked in.
Then, I found an article on GenderTrender, and some more pennies began to drop. Way back in 2010, that blog was insightfully covering the transgender trend in ‘tween and teenage girls
who believe that rejection of increasingly constrictive female norms means they must be male. These girls don’t want to act out a ‘female’ role in relationships with boys.
Here was an apt description of my daughter, who kept telling me that she must be a boy because she was a “rubbish girl,” that she wanted “to be the boy in the relationship, saying the lines and making the moves.”
She and her friends had recently been watching porn videos on their phones at school, and a letter had been sent home to parents. I wondered if the images she had seen had frightened her. Girls with ASD often have sensory issues which can mean they don’t like to be touched much, or hugged; a few in my daughter’s online social group describe themselves as asexual. Maybe she felt that taking on a male presentation would ensure that she wasn’t pressured into situations which she was uncomfortable with? She refuses to discuss it with me.
As the same article also observed,
they don’t want to be marginalized as the gender non-conforming women that they are. Femininity rejecting females simply DO NOT EXIST in the media reflection that is so important to children and teens in western culture. These kids want to fit into social norms, wear the right brands, get the right haircuts, and look like the people in magazines. “Transgender” has a certain cachet, a certain alterna-cool about it for those in middle school and high school years. Declaring one’s trans status is like getting the ultimate cool tattoo or piercing body mod and provides girls with special status and treatment amongst their peers as well as school officials, employers, parents and other authorities.
This, too, has been my experience. My daughter’s social popularity rose on her transgender announcement, and what teenager wouldn’t rejoice in that–especially one who had previously had trouble maintaining friends? She attracted much encouragement and support.
I read all the statistics about suicide rates, the suffering of those with crippling dysphoria, about the bravery of coming out as trans in a hostile world — and yet my daughter displayed no such angst. She declared herself the happiest ever and demanded that we catch up with the rest of the world. Her anger and distress were only directed at us, her parents, when we questioned her transgender narrative.
One of the most heartbreaking parts of my story is the way my daughter has been encouraged to believe that we, her parents, don’t love and respect her because “we don’t want her to be happy.” Outside of our family, her friends, college teachers and the media are cheering and validating her male presentation. She is genuinely bewildered, disappointed and hurt by our inability to sign up to her self-diagnosis, without question, without due diligence. Not long ago, she reblogged a popular post on her Tumblr account. It is an illustration of a parent cutting the multicolored wings on the back of a “transgender” child.
It’s common knowledge that teenagers always run with their peer group. They try out identities and refute parental opposition. There’s nothing new in that. That’s healthy. But it’s the untested lifelong medical treatments and surgery involved here which frighten us, and make us cautious parents – not “transphobes.” And, if my daughter does have Asperger Syndrome, does she have the ‘theory of mind’ to understand the long-term implications of what she is proposing?
Back to GenderTrender:
The trans tweener trenders bond and encourage online via YouTube groups and web forums which function much like pro-ana, pro mia and trans-abled communities, encouraging dysphoria and censoring questioning and dissent.
The online spaces my daughter visits have become saturated with transgenderism. Many 4thWaveNow parents mention that their girls spend a great deal of time on Tumblr in particular. During Trans Awareness Week recently Tumblr was described glowingly:
Tumblr seems like a natural fit for young transgender people to gather online, with a thriving social justice community and fandom devotees advocating LGBTQ rights, Tumblr fosters a culture of reaching out for advice from caring, experienced strangers… Tumblr’s also important because through finding one person who is similar to you, you’ll find 10 more, because they’ll be following people like themselves. When I was first working out I was trans, I didn’t follow that many other girls, but now I follow loads… the most important thing Tumblr’s trans community can give its members may be a sense of affirmation.
How intoxicating must that be? A legion of like-minded girls, with similar interests – after so many years of feeling like you don’t fit in. And how normalizing!
In my daughter’s case, I would also add into the mix the androgyny, cosplay and cross-play associated with anime and manga, and the androgyny, parental estrangement, disassociation, and angst messages that she absorbed during her previous obsession with the “emo” scene too.
Not feeling either stereotypically male or female is fine. Androgyny is fine. Trying on many identities is fine. But how did these feelings become conflated with a transgender diagnosis, when they all fit firmly into the Asperger girls’ profile too?
Here are a few quotes from parents of girls with Asperger Syndrome, which feature in the I am Aspiengirl book:
“She went from princess, to tomboy, to punk, to emo to goth. She is having trouble finding out just who she is and has gotten involved with the wrong types of people. She is not interested in dating and finds flirting very confusing. She also does not seem to have a solid gender identity.”
“She has recently given up trying to fit in. She is going through very challenging teenage years, feeling even more outcast. We are now watching her embrace opposite conventions, despise femininity, social and gender rules. She is now a tomboy and a bit confused about her gender.”
“We all thought she had gone to the “dark side”. She just didn’t fit in anywhere and had no idea who she was. She seemed to despise femininity and defined social and gender rules. When she has friends, she tends to naively and blindly follow wherever they go, their rules, taking on their traits, from the way they dress to the way they talk and act.”
“Just a few months ago, she was wearing frilly dresses and looked like a princess. Now she’s Goth and won’t let anyone call her by her new name. She has depression and panic attacks that sneak up on her from out of nowhere.”
“She really struggles with sensory sensitivities, social anxiety, panic attacks and depression. She must have gone through at least three or four different lifestyle changes.”
Do any of these anecdotes sound familiar to other parents in my position?
So what now? I strongly suspect that my daughter is on the autistic spectrum. I feel that she has Asperger-related issues which are impacting on her self-diagnosis of being trans. I feel transgenderism has become a special interest/ obsession that gives her relief from anxiety. All I want is to be reassured that clinicians will take care, be cautious, give her time to experience more life, to mature.
But will they?
Until I believe they will exercise proper caution, I am too scared to lead her into a therapist’s waiting room. Because I fear that, in some medical quarters, as soon as the word “transgender” is uttered, Asperger syndrome becomes downgraded to a mere co-existing condition.
In a recent small retrospective study of children presenting to a gender clinic in Boston, it was found that 23% of the patients potentially could be given an Asperger diagnosis but instead of urging caution, the researcher Daniel Shumer seemed to imply that it merely meant these kids may need to have the transition process explained more clearly.
Given the growth of gender programs and general awareness of gender dysphoria in the U.S., Shumer said it helps to know that there’s a link between it and Asperger syndrome. He said he hopes his work will help persuade doctors to screen transgender patients for ASD and know that they may need to take more care to explain hormonal interventions to their patients on the autism spectrum.
Aron Janssen, MD, a child psychiatrist at NYU Langone Medical Center, who was not involved in the study had this to say,
It’s really about assessing what gender means to a population that may think of gender in a different way than the way most of us do,” Janssen said, explaining that thinking differently about gender shouldn’t limit treatment options for patients with ASD. In a way, people with ASD may express their gender more authentically because they’re not as swayed by social stereotypes, Janssen said.
Aron Janssen has recently taken part in an interview with The Ackerman Institute for the Family, which he has posted to the WPATH Facebook page. In it, he gives his view that gender dysphoria is a completely separate entity from autism spectrum disorder. He states that recent research has found an overlap between individuals who have gender dysphoria and individuals who have an autism spectrum disorder but we don’t really know why that is.
One of the implications for treatment, he says, can be that patients with autism who may have a “theory of mind” impairment could have difficulty in understanding how to communicate their internal gender identity to the outside world; in other words, they may not understand that how you speak, dress, act and appear are important to how people view your gender presentation. They may need help with that.
A Reddit commentator with Asperger’s would agree with that impairment, but reaches a different conclusion on the help needed:
I can’t speak for all people with autism (I have Asperger’s), but I think a lot of people with autism spectrum disorder are confused by the messages that society puts out about how to act and how to perform gender. I always felt like I didn’t fit in with women when I was growing up. Had I been born later, I have to wonder if I’d be picking up this trans narrative and taking it to heart. This is not the kind of help that young people with autism need. They need appropriate services, help finding their way into jobs and meaningful social connections, not hormones.
Dr Janssen, however, appears to take a different perspective.
For too long individuals with autism who have had gender dysphoria have had that gender dysphoria dismissed as filling category 2 of autism- that restricted or repetitive interests or behaviors – and their gender identity was thought of as a symptom of autism, as opposed to something that is genuine for each individual.
As such, he believes he needs to help patients express their own autonomy and give them access to the care they say they need.
Which all sounds great, if we weren’t talking about letting children with cognitive vulnerabilities make decisions about irreversible treatments before their brains reach full maturation!
My last point is this: So much of the research available cites case studies of patients who have experienced gender dysphoria from a very young age. Information about the clinical management of SUDDEN, LATE ONSET gender dysphoria in YOUNG TEENAGE GIRLS has been impossible for me to find on the internet. 4thwave’s blog is the only place I have found where this particular path to transgender presentation is being discussed.
More importantly, parents are also beginning to come here to tell about desistance in their daughters. These stories are important. (These stories give me hope.) If you have a similar one to tell, please share it here. My plea to clinicians is that they read these accounts and adopt a WATCHFUL WAITING approach for this group of teens and young adults.
I am absolutely sure of your concerns in relation to your daughter and it saddens and angers me that you are unable to at least discuss this with a mental health care professional. That you are vilified for being failed by the medical profession is heartbreakingly cruel.
After I had read this post I reached into my desk drawer and pulled out a much thumbed copy of Tony Atwood’s ”Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome”. It was bookmarked at a chapter entitled ”Special Interests” and I had read about these as a means of relaxation in order to relieve feelings of stress in people who are on the autism spectrum. The examples that Atwood gives are rock music and stamp collecting. In my husband’s case this was ”cross-dressing”. A lot of my husband’s behaviour; poor social skills and lack of empathy and depression also ticked many of the boxes for Asperger’s.
I should have tackled him about it much earlier; before it became such a deeply entrenched means of dealing with life’s problems. By the time I did It was too late. I remember asking him to talk about Asperger’s syndrome one time before he went to his appointment at the Gender Clinic at the hospital. His non-committal reply was to thank me for my concern. I’m sure that he never did mention it. Anyway, he was already on hormone therapy by then, although he hadn’t told me.
My ex’s case is very different to your teenager daughter’s. Society is being brainwashed into believing that there are an ever increasing number of kids who are coming forward as ”trans”. Bull shit….it’s being driven forward by activists, mostly men like my ex, who never had the guts to stand up and admit that the driving force for their feelings is sexual. The gender dysphoria exists because it interferes with the visual aspect of putting on a wig, makeup, a dress and high heels.
If Bruce Jenner had genuine gender dysphoria then he would have had SRS not FFS. Instead he gets to push the ideals of what men think women should be so that young girls who don’t measure up think that they are men.
Sorry for the rant. Usually I try to keep an even keel and take things down by research and facts. But hell, I’m fed up of the silencing of women’s voices, of seeing this trans agenda being pushed into schools with the full backing of governments who are too lazy to ask the right questions.
There is so much important work in the posts and comments of this blog that needs a far wider audience. Thank you 4thWave for everything you do.
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I feel so angry too – that I have had my voice taken away from me, that I am having my daughter taken away from me. This blog is the only place I know of, where I could safely make my plea and record my story. Thank you 4thWave!
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When I was poking around the trans side of tumblr – and it feels inappropriate to call it a “side” because it is so expansive – many, many times I saw this question come up on trans-supportive blogs: “Hi, I’m on the Autism spectrum and I’m wondering if that has anything to do with my gender dysphoria.” And time and time again the answer would be given “No, autism has nothing to do with your gender identity, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
How no one can talk about these things when you have a teenager saying “I don’t *feel* like a boy or a girl” – it was especially present in “non-binary” circles – just blew my mind. This isn’t even about liking or disliking gender roles; this is about someone’s internal comprehension of themselves. Serious business.
It really got to me because when I read about autism spectrum disorders, I can relate to so many aspects, from the sensory overload to the difficulty understanding other people and relating to them, and most of all the slipperyness of a definite sense of self. I have tried on so many different costumes throughout my life, trying to be something – anything – that other people could understand and relate to – and believe me, transgender identification was a costume as well. I didn’t know it at the time but looking back I know it certainly was. Realizing that has lead me to look honestly at a lot of my own limitations for the first time in my life, and try to find ways to accept and deal with them.
It’s terrifying to think that the transgender community is scooping up kids who may have these issues and not just ignoring them but outright denying they have anything to do with what got them there. Where is the compassion in that? What I have seen on tumblr looks much more like brainwashing and the recruitment of desperate souls in need of a place, some place, to feel safe. But their issues, whatever they are, are going to follow them there, and it’s not going to make life magically all okay. That’s the terrifying thing, and I really do wonder how much it influences the suicide statistics.
neverfallingforit, thank you for your guest post here. I so wish you the best with your daughter, and commend you for all your care and research. Being aware of what is behind the costume is surely helpful in understanding and working with what she is going through.
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Thank you thissoftspace. I have actually sent my daughter a link to your Tumblr blog. The content in your blog encapsulates everything I want my daughter to consider. Thank you too for your 2 part post recently. It inspired me to keep hoping!
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When my daughter first told us that she was trans and her dad and I wanted to get her into therapy, we met with a therapist. As we described our daughter, the therapist said that it sounded like she had Asperger’s. That made SO MUCH sense to us, and explained a lot of other behaviors not related to gender identity as well. Then the therapist met our daughter and the Asperger’s diagnosis was thrown out because our daughter makes facial expressions. We have left this alone for now, as the therapy seems to be helping in all areas of our daughter’s life.
The thing that really strikes me as interesting is that many girls with Asperger’s try to model themselves after their friends to fit in better. What happens with a “tomboy” on Autism spectrum who has mainly male friends? When she copies her male friends to fit in better with them, does that mean she’s trans?
What about the clothing issue? Many people on the Autism spectrum have sensory issues that prevent them from wearing certain fabrics. My daughter cannot wear anything lacey or knit (sweaters are out), and can barely stand anything silky because she doesn’t like how the fabrics feel against her skin. If there is even a remote chance that something could be itchy, she will not even try it on. She wears cotton 99% of the time, and there can be no tags in her clothes. She used to cry when she was little if there was a tag in her shirt. Is she trans because she is most comfortable in baggy t-shirts? Is a boy on the spectrum also considered trans if he has the same sensory issues? Of course not. It’s perfectly acceptable for a boy to wear t-shirts all the time.
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“Then the therapist met our daughter and the Asperger’s diagnosis was thrown out because our daughter makes facial expressions.”
That is the biggest load of bull I’ve ever seen. o.o I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder myself (would have been Aspergers in the DSM-IV era). I assure you I am capable of both facial expressions AND eye contact (*gasp*) ! And I was even as a teenager. I don’t particularly like eye contact, and I have moments of flat affect/inscrutable expressions, but … man, I really hope there was more to it than that with that therapist, because that’s so wrong I don’t even know where to begin…!
We have since talked to the therapist about being on the Autism spectrum again (since Asperger’s is no longer an official diagnosis), and the therapist feels that my daughter would be considered borderline. She would not give her an Autism diagnosis now that she knows her better. Thanks for sharing your experience, Jam!
WHY do so many of these gender therapists and related professionals just jump on the self-diagnosis immediately instead of first ruling out any other causes? I think most people have mistakenly diagnosed themselves with something after reading about symptoms and such, but an intelligent person will listen and understand when a doctor explains those symptoms are really caused by another condition, and why it can’t be the disease or condition the patient suspected. Just imagine how horrific it would be if a doctor just nodded along with the self-diagnosis of some hypochondriac or person with a very overactive imagination, particularly if s/he falsely believed him or herself to have cancer or a heart murmur.
I’m doubly-glad I wasn’t born in this generation, since I’m an Aspie as well as very gender-nonconforming. Obviously, given my age, I didn’t have Asperger’s confirmed till age 29, though my mother and I suspected it for a long time, even before it was in the news so often. The psychiatrist I saw didn’t see the use in formally diagnosing me at my age, since the worst of my issues had long since resolved themselves, and I knew how to pass for “normal.” I’m actually now kind of worried about an online friend with two autistic kids, since she’s revealed herself as really pro-trans and talked about how she’d be so cool with it if either of her sons came out as trans. (Just yesterday she said she welcomes “transwomen” in women’s bathrooms, and if anyone doesn’t believe they’re really women, she’ll shout it again louder.) Who’s to say someone might mistake normal autistic behavior for gender dysphoria?
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Exactly, Carrie-Ann! I was diagnosed at 24, and my heart breaks for the younger “Aspergirls” in my generation and the girls on the spectrum currently growing into teens. Gender’s never been fun, and while on paper young women are better off than their mothers and grandmothers, gender’s constricted again to the point where expression has become reality and if you don’t feel an internal gender either you’re lying or you should use the term the trans cult coined for you.
The reality is that sensory issues are A Thing even if they’re only linked to one or two senses, and special interests are awesome and freeing but parents have every right to question or follow along, and our Theory of Mind is present but not really on our peers’ level because it has to be learned. Girls who make facial expressions are good at that skill, not un-autistic. Sometimes a girl just doesn’t have the energy to deal with the Bullshit that comes along with performing “girl” in this generation’s climate… I didn’t, usually, and I was a teen longer in the 90s than the 00s. Identity was easier, then, because teens who were bad at gender were just people who were bad at gender, not trans.
Neverfallingforit, I’m sure it sucks to be the parent who won’t give in in this political climate, but I can say for sure that you’re doing the right thing. You’re doing a lot of emotional work for your daughter that she might not recognize until she’s older, but your gut feeling about “sudden, late onset dysphoria” is on track; in my personal experience, the idiological group was religious, not secular, but the drive to be “the best (member of group with common ideology)” was there, starting around the age when sex started seeming like a possibility and lasting until I realized (1) the religion’s creed made no sense, and (2) using ideology to have an in-group didn’t make for lasting friendships. What pisses me off as someone who’s benefitted from counseling and assessment for aspects of my ASD is that so many therapists are buying into the idea that gender incongruity and/or dysphoria are the cause of other feelings (depression) or behaviors (e.g autistic), rather than a symptom of or response to those feelings or the root cause of those behaviors (e.g. Autism). Counseling helps, at least to let you know you’re not alone, and I don’t know if it would help your daughter because of the emphasis on affirming “trans identities”, rather than using conversation and the Socratic method to figure out why the trans identity in the first place.
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Grown-up Aspergirl, thank you, what you say about the ” drive to be the best member of the group” chimed with me. I see that same drive in my daughter. Aspie girls can be perfectionists, so if they don’t feel they are doing a grand job of being a girl, they may be tempted to give up and pursue other options. That’s what I feel is at play here too.
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Gender therapists used to rule out other diagnoses before an individual was given the green light to transition. I read about this in one of Jenny Boylan’s books– she transitioned from MTF in the early 2000s, which really wasn’t all that long ago. But the standards of care have changed a lot since then.
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Of course, you are right Carrie-Anne. In this instance, how is self-identity any different to self-diagnosis?
The number of people with health anxieties are reportedly on the rise. The ‘ worried well’, as doctors call them, are looking up their symptoms on the internet and being panicked by media reports. A London GP had this to say on the subject, “people are becoming ever more introverted, and consequently they do worry more about their bodies. Many of the government drives around health awareness sometimes only seem to make that worse”
I maintain that governments sending gender identity questionnaires into schools- which was recently proposed in the UK – and asking young people to choose from a list of 25 gender identity options could create gender anxiety in itself.
As an aside, how tempted would teenagers be to choose the more exotic description ‘ demi-boy’ or ‘ non-binary’ than the boring boy or girl tick box? We all used to like a bit of drama when we were young didn’t we? Before you know it, the school would be counting a significant number of demi-boys etc, and calling in a trans awareness speaker into school!
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This is a great post!
I think that for a lot of people on the autistic “spectrum,” especially those who experience sensitive skin and/or tactile defensiveness, may place a high value on comfortable clothing. It makes sense that practical, comfortable, somewhat loose-fiiting clothes that have soft and natural “un-scratchy” fabrics would be preferred. It makes sense also that very short hair cuts might be chosen over longer hair styles as longer hair may feel uncomfortable and would need more care and attention. And make-up would be very uncomfortable for many people with sensitive skin.
What is crazy is that when a woman chooses simple clothing, like soft cotton jeans and a soft cotton T-shirt or a “men’s” soft flannel shirt – or when a woman does not wear make-up or prefers short hair, she is considered “Gender-non conforming.”
I feel like high heels, fashion oriented dresses and skirts, make-up, hair styles etc. are all a part of societies standard “uniform” requirements that a woman is expected to adopt if she wants to appear professional, feminine and meet gender-streotypes. But in the end, fashion and clothing choices have nothing to do with being a woman.
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Ugh…”theory of mind” – aka. “the reason my wholly subjective viewpoint is inherently wrong but their wholly subjective viewpoints must apparently go unchallenged”.
They keep describing perfectly ordinary autistic things, feeling like “pretending to be like the other people”, all that being out of synch with all your external stimuli, body included, and then making stupid and sexist “just so stories” for how this might happen. Their theories don’t add up..take ladybrains, “hormone washed” intersex brains…I mean, hormones aren’t memories, long term, short term, or executive function’s “working memory”. Hormones don’t do that. They can sharpen or dull your focus in retrieving the memories but…that’s it really. There are so many holes in their reasoning.
But they keep trying to tell me I’m genderqueer, or agender or have a man brain, and keep projecting my own genderless viewpoint over the rest of society who mostly totally, internally feel like boys or girls. That my “mind blindness” is what’s made me miss gender being a real thing for people.
But that just doesn’t stack up to measurable reality, the one with the statistics we can all share, where “boy” or “girl” are descriptions of a kid’s body’s sex and “gender” is a striven for pair of ideals we’re “meant to” be like, according to a society they do keep slagging off.
(“Waah! Western civilisation is evil! End it all now! Except western ideals for men and women, those are super and must never end!”.So much -Does not compute – there )
Anyway the “femininity” is all about being this selfless conduit to what others want, and “masculinity” is the effort to never ever be treated servile like that.
But, they should not be treating girls, then women, that way as it’s not fair. Having the majority of your social infrastructure worked by unpaid people who’ve been bullied into it, is unfair,
I’m not just saying this because I’m crap at guessing what people might want from their expressions (or often who they even are from their features), or likely to gag if touching someone else’s hair, or bad at staying quiet when the stress has got to me. Even if I was good enough at these things to maybe enjoy being praised for succeeding in them, this would still be systemically unfair to women.
That’s the system I’m seeing and I’m incredibly not alone in seeing it this way but radical feminists are all mad bitches now apparently, and I’m even worse because i’m a radical with a few mental handicaps.
One more thing “Extreme Male Brain” they call it.
Now look at what your extemely macho “alpha male” types are meant to do, and look at what our ‘spergy boys can do. Extremely Male? They often can’t even catch a ball without failing, then crying about it.
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There’s a study that shows that people on the autism spectrum are androgynous regardless of sex, and the rate of transwomen and non binary male assigned at birth individuals among those of the male sex with asd are higher than control groups.Your post pretty much backs that up with your anecdotal attack on ‘extreme male brain’ theory. Everyone on this blog is coming at this from the wrong angle:http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/201/2/116There are more studies on the topic of mental and physical gender divergence in people with aspergers and asd, but I’m on my phone so I’ll leave this as a start.
I don’t know about the comfortable clothes thing; are these always seen as gender non conforming for girls? I mean, it sems to me that there are comfortable sweatshirts, t shirts, track suit bottoms, gym leggings, and comfortable shoes such as croks, frequently available in the supposed-to-be-feminine pink, and with very girlie designs. There’s the fashion for wearing pajamas as daywear that girls and women can go in for – it’s been around for quite a while – and there’s tons of comfy soft pj bottoms in pink with “feminine” patterns and designs on in the stores.
I can’t afford to repeatedly buy and replace lots of ruffly and lacey clothes throughout the year, so I dress up in these only for rather special occasions and most of the time wear casual-style comfortable clothes myself, although I want to be seen as feminine. However, all my comfortable clothes are all chosen for my love of sweet ornamentation. I’ve bought various crocks in pound shops to go around in day by day, but they all have these little cute things pinned on them, such as ballet shoes, I bought separetely. Today, I went out in some pink Hello Kitty pajamas which I wear as trousers, a loose soft peach long-sleeved shirt with an applique of Charmey Kitty on it, soft pink socks, and purple crocs ornamented with cherries. I wore yarn knitwear, such as a beanie, I bought very plain from a pound shop, but was sure to add crocheted flowers to as their plainness offended me. I always add things like little dolls and frilly lace to my comfy clothes and practical bags, and people just comment on the prettiness of the things I wear, they never seem to think I’m gender non conforming, even though I don’t always wear make up if I don’t have the time to put it on or am too tired to. In fact I am known as “the Hello Kitty lady” in my home district; admittedly it’s a poor one and has a lot of young women going around in tracksuits and pjs.
Although I happen to love pale pink and I prefer it to blue, even for those girls who dislike pink, there’s lots of comfy casual clothes which aren’t pink. I have pj bottoms with bunnies on in scarlet and white. I have an Alice in Wonderland motive baggy sweatshirt. I didn’t have to search hard to find them.
I would wonder if it’s the lack of sweetie style ornamentation which makes people think of comfy clothing on girls and women as equaling them looking gender non conforming. To me it is.
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I think you are describing an artist. You should encourage it, not try to change it, or pathologize it, ‘label’ it. This is how an artist develops. A musician, a writer, a painter, sculptor.
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You’re so right. I hate labels and I would previously have been reluctant to pursue a diagnosis of ASD for my daughter, figuring that we are all on the spectrum of something, and seeing the world differently has great creative potential. If it would save her from the potential medical interventions of being labelled transgender though, I would be for a diagnosis. I just want to buy her some time….
neverfallingforit, great post!
Looking at the checklists made me realize that my daughter has quite a few of these traits herself (me too, actually). Thanks for sharing.
This quote really stood out to me:
“In a way, people with ASD may express their gender more authentically because they’re not as swayed by social stereotypes, Janssen said.”
What a twisted way to think. Just because people with ASD have difficulties grasping how to perform gender, doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t feel pressure to conform. Most people want to “fit in.” If anything that would make them more swayed by stereotypes, not less.
And I’m fed up when transactivists use the word “authentic(ally)” like this. There is nothing authentic about feeling you have to alter your body to fit society.
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Something that might help… People with Asperger’s are known for having logical, scientific minds. If you show them the science (or lack thereof) and explain this is why you are advising them to wait before they start to transition, they are probably more likely than a neurotypical kid to pay attention.
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I can’t speak for all Aspies, but I know I definitely took some huge steps back from my former support of trans politics once I started digging deeper and finding out all these things the media never reports. When I was a teenager myself, I also understood the value of waiting until legal adulthood to do certain other things, like getting a piercing or getting married. I was even that weird kid who didn’t see what was wrong with waiting till at least 16 to date anyone, and was never in a rush to learn to drive! Pretty much ever since teenage culture began in the 20th century, teenagers have always been in a hurry to grow up, and do things behind their parents’ backs anyway, but this new generation seems even more in a hurry not just to grow up, but to blaze ahead and do their own thing well before their 18th birthday, because they just can’t wait to be legal adults.
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Here is a quote from the article by Dr. Schwartz that is mentioned in an earlier post (link below):
“In particular, their discussion of symptomatic overlaps between children diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and children diagnosed with gender identity disorder, questions how frequently gender disturbance is inferred as primary, when cognitive or social pathology may be playing an equal, stronger, or interactive role (p. 469)”
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I would be careful using “Aspergirls” as any kind of definitive guide on Asperger Syndrome or autistic presentation in women. I recently bought it and read it, because it was supposed to be this amazing book, and I found it wanting. For the record, I am an autistic female adult and a long-time neurodiversity supporter. I was diagnosed as an adult after the DSM-V came out, but because I never had a language delay I am very firmly in what used to be the Aspergers camp.
“Aspergirls” had some really serious flaws, not the least of which included speculations on the psychic abilities of autistic children (wtf?) and several entire chapters on sex and dating that COMPLETELY fail to mention the existence of homosexuality and bisexuality. The author also treats gender stereotypes (other than clothing choices) kind of like laws of nature and never questions them at all. I could even see how reading this book as a gender dysphoric (and gay or bi) aspergirl could lead to INCREASED dysphoria and internalized misogyny and homophobia. There’s a laundry list of issues that I had with this book, but that’s the worst of it. It’s also highly subjective and doesn’t contain a shred of hard data that I can remember. It’s more like a personal memoir of the author and a small cohort of her internet friends than something beneficial for other aspergirls, imho. There are better resources out there for autistic women! I especially like the blog “Musings of an Aspie,” for example.
I also think it is important to pursue formal diagnosis of Asperger’s/autism if you suspect it. Self-/armchair-diagnosis can only get you so far. If you need to get accommodations in school or at work, or if you want to be an activist, or need to get certain types of welfare, a formal diagnosis goes a long way toward supporting your case. It’s also important for Aspies, I think, to know things for certain. Honestly getting my diagnosis at age 25 was a real blessing; a whole bunch of puzzle pieces slid into place, and I was able to understand/forgive myself for a lot of things in my past and present, and begin to work within my strengths to find healing and power rather than constantly battling my weaknesses.
I do think that my autism intensifies my dysphoria, the root cause of which is internalized misogyny. I think it is very important for care providers to take autism into account when treating anything. All mental health diagnoses are always intertwined. If an autistic adult wants to go on to transition with full and informed consent, I don’t think that they should be stopped, but I definitely think that they should be cautioned, and of course I do not think that children should ever be allowed to medically transition at all.