What autigender?

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Definition of autigender is simple: it means that a person feels that autism affects their gender experience so strongly, that binary gendering fails to capture their gender experience. Autigender is not supposed to be a mold or a role that autigender people are supposed to display. Autigender people can identify as non-binary or be content with their apparent binary gender. They may feel at home in body they were born into, or they may experience gender dysphoria that needs to be addressed. Style is free. Autigender affects none of that.

Neither does it dictate one’s sexual orientation or how important sexuality is for an autigender person. It is good to remember, that traditionally autists, just like some other minorities, have been asexualized and it has been widely believed, that love and sexual relations are not for us, either because we are not interested or because we are so odd and repulsive that we are unable to attract potential partners except from some truly desperate individuals. That, however, is a social phenomenon related to discrimination against minorities. As such, it tells about people perpetuating it, but nothing about abilities, wishes, opportunities or life of real autistic people.

So, according to my understanding, the term functions as an explanation -mainly to the person in question- a few things that may have previously bothered them. Every autist’s life and profile are, of course, unique, so autigender is not a necessary and unavoidable result of being autistic. This being said, many autists seem to experience a minor enlightment when first hearing the term. That is no wonder. There are no autism-free parts in being of an autistic person. That does not mean autism presents itself notably at all times, or that it shows as special strengths or limitations at every area of life, or that is requires some special consideration at every turn. No matter how things look from outside, we simply are autistic inside, all the time and everywhere.

Gender experience is a construct strongly rooted in social world. Neurotypical experience of gender seems to be, in large parts, arise from there. In the big picture of multiverse, autists, on the other hand, are people living in borderlands of social world. Instead of feeling the pulse and buzz of social world all the time, we gaze into expanses of Laniakea. Such difference in perspective affects quite easily in the way we experience and express gender, along with everything else. For example, we may happily miss binary but strange-sounding gendered role expectations instead of feeling strong pressure to fall in line like neurotypical people would. We are simpy ourselves and pressures of social world do not affect us as strongly as they affect neurotypicals.

I can recall a few social situations from my life where binary gender expectations have made me feel strong but vague discomfort. I have been unable to relate with experience or feelings of women around me. I have not understood just how is it a problem that I act or choose differently from other females, or have realized I was exptected to behave in some way that felt just weird to me, because that is what women would have done. In these situations, I have recognized the same vague but strong feeling of difference that I’ve encountered in many other situations where I have -without realizing it- been my authentic autistic self among neurotypicals. What’s even stranger, I can also remember situations, where members of neuromajority have treated me well but a little differently from other females present, as if they had identified me as someone who is something a bit different from them. That has felt more considerate than unpleasant, but it has still bothered me, because I have not understood, why.

The notion of Autigender shed light into these confusing experiences. Most of the time being gendered as a woman is not an issue, but when we get down to details, I can make much better sense about myself and my life when understanding that I’m not an oddball for a woman but a perfectly normal autigender whose world works generally as expected. Now that I understand the origin of my feelings, they no longer bother me. Obviously, I can’t completely relate with womanhood or perform a woman’s social role perfectly, because that is not who I am and so binary mold works only so far. Especially in certain strongly gendered but informal social situations, where most females flash womanhood, I flash autism instead.

Failure to fit in mold of a whole different gender is no failure at all, neither is it a problem that needs fixing. It’s the simple truth about who I am. If that truth repels someone -well, that’s probably good for everyone. Such a person would probably never recover from finding out, just how autistic other aspects of my life are.

Kaiaon missiona on edistää yhdenvertaisuutta ja autismin ymmärtämistä. Jos yhteistyö kiinnostaa, ota yhteyttä saara.reiman@kaiao.fi!