These words about two words helped me figure myself out more. Passing them along.
Autigender is not explicitly saying that “My gender is autism” – it’s not about saying you are a boy, girl, enby, autism, whatever. It’s about your relationship with your gender.
Specifically, gender is a social construct. The primary deficit of autism includes difficulties interpreting and understanding social constructions. This means that we have a disability that inherently makes understanding gender part of our disability.
Because of this, we can have exceptionally complicated and unique understanding of what gender is, how it affects us, and how we express gender.
Autigender is a word that describes this unique, complicated relationship. So when a person is saying that they are autigender, what they are saying is more or less that their understanding of gender is fundamentally altered by their autism.
Because autigender describes the relationship with gender, an autigender person’s gender can be, well anything. Boy. Girl. Enby. Cis. Trans. Anything. Agender. Gender Nope.
So what about a person who says they are autigender, and that IS their gender? Well, I think this still describes the relationship with their gender – Specifically in this case, their autism affects their understanding to such a degree that they just can’tbe any more descriptive with regards to gender. That leaves the only word they have – autigender.
“Autigender” is a term that some autistic people use to describe their relationship with gender. Specifically, it means that they feel that their autism affects the way they perceive and feel about gender.
Unfortunately, a lot of people interpret this as meaning that people think “autism” is their gender, which results in a lot of rage-filled posts on social media about how your gender cannot be a disability. Because, of course, it can’t. Autism is a neurotype, not a gender.
But this is a complete misunderstanding of the term.
No one who calls themselves “autigender” is going to write “autism” next to the word “gender” on a questionnaire.
The fact is that autism is a neurotype that specifically affects our perceptions and understanding of social conventions, norms, etiquette and mores.
Nor does it affect every autistic person the same way. One person may pick up on social norms easily but may struggle with small talk while another remains oblivious to social norms but can banter easily with strangers in line at the checkout.
It’s well documented that there is a significantly higher rate of gay, bi, trans, ace, and gender-queer people in the autistic community compared to the non-autistic community. What researchers haven’t figured out yet though is whether autism is in some way related to gender and sexual orientation or whether autistic people are just less brain-washed by society into following heteronormative stereotypes.
In other words, are there really more gay/trans/queer/ace autistic people, or do they just figure it out/come out of the closet more readily than non-autistic people?
We don’t know yet.
What we do know is that there are some people who feel that their ability to think of themselves as a particular gender is affected by their autism. This feeling is shared by enough autistic people that they have dubbed themselves “autigender.”
I don’t call myself autigender, but I get it. Gender is confusing to me, too.
I don’t feel offended by the idea of autigender. But some people really do. They feel it insults other non-binary and genderqueer people, that it mocks and makes light of their relationship with their gender. Autistic community leaders try to remind people that if you don’t like the term, you don’t have to use it.
But if it gives some people a feeling of belonging and helps them describe what must be a very complicated emotional response, then you should support them and let them call it what they want.
If someone feels their autism is affecting how they perceive their gender, let them call themselves autigender.
Considering how many LGBTQA+ autistic folk there are, I think there’s something in that one way or another.
So what does it mean to neuroqueer, as a verb? What are the various practices that fall within the definition of neuroqueering?
- Being neurodivergent and approaching one’s neurodivergence as a form of queerness (e.g., by understanding and approaching neurodivergence in ways that are inspired by, or similar to, the ways in which queerness is understood and approached in Queer Theory, Gender Studies, and/or queer activism).
- Being both neurodivergent and queer, with some degree of conscious awareness and/or active exploration around how these two aspects of one’s identity intersect and interact.
- Being neurodivergent and actively choosing to embody and express one’s neurodivergence (or refusing to suppress one’s embodiment and expression of neurodivergence) in ways that “queer” one’s performance of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, occupation, and/or other aspects of one’s identity.
- Engaging in the “queering” of one’s own neurocognitive processes (and one’s outward embodiment and expression of those processes) by intentionally altering them in ways that create significant and lasting increase in one’s divergence from dominant neurological, cognitive, and behavioral norms.
Source: Neuroqueer: An Introduction
I didn’t have the vocabulary for what I felt back in Southern Baptist Texas in the 1970s and 80s, but I was uncomfortable with and resistant to gender norms as a kid. They felt: silly, arbitrary, oppressive, confining, unnecessary, counter-productive, irrational. They did not make sense. They did not fit.
A small, shareable anecdote of the ways norms went against my grind, from a lifetime collection:
I didn’t openly express myself in dress much—I was deathly afraid of being noticed and totally unsure about what I felt—but I would splash some color in. I opted for a pink tinted coating on a new pair of eyeglasses once. Kids at school gave me grief, but I liked them and came to wear them as a defiant badge and also a sort of shield. My father had the coating removed.
Several burnouts and a retirement later, I have zero capacity for masking, for attenuating myself to the sensibilities of surrounding bigots and bullies. I enjoy my pink and my flower print Thai fisherman pants and wistfully wishing I could dial my gender to my pansexual, polyamorous, genderpunk, genderqueer mood.
Autigender and neuroqueer are the best fits I’ve found after a lifetime of seeking. Perhaps a term that fits even better will emerge. Perhaps it’s already out there for me to discover. I’ll keep reading other queer autistics as we help each other figure ourselves out.