The intersection of the autistic and transgender communities
And as an autistic and trans non-binary person, I generally find myself at a pretty liberal cross section of online discourse. I have very strongly held beliefs, but I enjoy finding out reasons why people believe what they believe. Food for thought becomes a thought experiment which might become a fundamental changing of my core beliefs, and I think that is just good fun.
So when I heard that there was a group of autistic trans people that claimed that their autism had something to do with how they present their gender, I wasn’t necessarily offended.
I am used to cis and trans-binary people alike debating that there are “only two genders.” I know people call me a fragile snowflake because I can’t just choose a side. Or one kind of partner. Or a single, long-term hair color.
There are more than two genders.
But most of us know that.
People are generally OK with the idea that gender is a spectrum, but those same people will lament that there are “a million genders nowadays.” They are fine with non-binary, but they don’t accept it as an um Nuance is hard to capture on the internet.
I believe that a person should identify however they want to. But I see plenty of people online who think that the people who are using this new title are nothing but “trans-trenders” and overly PC leftists. How could they trivialize gender dysphoria by connecting it to their mental disability?
Some Identities Play Well with Others
The Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network was founded, in part, because there is an overlap of people who are transgender and autistic. I personally am in multiple online forums that cater to both groups. Some autistic individuals identify as trans, gender nonconforming, or non-binary, and some believe that their autism plays a role in how they understand and perform gender.
Often, autistic people tend to have difficulty understanding and expressing typical social interaction.* They can struggle with social norms, and commonly have trouble fitting into societal expectations. Gender roles are socially constructed just like any other.
Autistic people make up about one percent of the population, and according to GLAAD, transgender people only take up 1.2% of the American population.* While there is little research regarding how big this intersection is, plenty of people online are already adopting the term “autigender” or “autismgender” in order to self-identify. So, a few people online are asking: is this really a thing?
My opinion is this: If people use it, it’s “a thing.”
Language and identity labels change all the time. I think that if someone feels the need to identify with the disabled community, that’s fine. And if they want to identify as trans, that’s fine too. Just because I personally don’t use this term to identify myself, it doesn’t affect my life how someone else chooses to express identify.
I would never want to take away someone’s freedom of speech or expression just because I don’t feel like changing my language. I expect people to understand my disability, as well as my gender, and I have language that helps me meet that end. I see no issue with allowing every person this opportunity.
As a marginalized group, I think that the transgender community should embrace any and all people who are willing to deconstruct the gender binary. Our language will come following after.