I’ve never identified with the binary, not even as a young kid. It just didn’t make any sense.– Me, from my post Nonbinary and Me
I’ve written a few times about my nonbinary gender and what it means to me. And I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job at expressing myself. Except it’s still felt a bit inconclusive, like something is perpetually lacking. Then I recently found autigender:
Neurodiverse Tumblr users first coined autigender in 2014, defining it as a gender which can only be understood in the context of being autistic. This definition suggests that some people’s gender experience and knowledge is influenced by or attached to their being autistic.– Katie Munday on AIM for the Rainbow
While autigender can be used as a standalone gender, it’s also used as a qualifier (much like nonbinary). When I say I am autigender nonbinary, I mean I cannot see the world without my autism’s influence, including perceiving and understanding how I am nonbinary. Using “autigender” does not make a person trans, though transness can of course co-occur (as it does with me). Autigender, as I use it, actually expands my understanding of my own transness. It just makes it make more sense.
I’ve never understood gender. Not once. I’ve only played the part and respected others’ expression. Intellectually I understand gender is a spectrum, but it’s hard for me to conceptualize that spectrum in any real meaningful way. It’s not tangible. I just know what feels right and what doesn’t. What some understand boy to be vs. girl does not land with me because we’re all just human. I have said before that I often wish I could just say my gender is “human” and call it a day.
Growing up, I didn’t want to be a boy, nor did I want to not be a girl. I just wanted to be me.
In looking back, it’s fair to say I wanted the social gender of “boy.” I didn’t care about genitalia, but I knew I wanted shorter hair (because long hair for me is sensory hell) and to be treated like “one of the guys.” And then puberty hit. My “weirdness”—I was still learning how to mask my autism effectively—already threatened me with ostracization. Therefore, it became abundantly clear that if I wanted to fit in at all, I needed to commit to the greatest acting challenge I’d ever have to take on: the role of “girl.” I participated in traditionally feminine rituals like doing make-up, wearing heels, or “gossiping,” because I desperately wanted to be included. All of it made me incredibly uncomfortable.
Making friends in the moment isn’t always hard, but keeping them has been a life-long challenge. So I played the part, and failed a lot. Instead of being true to myself, I put on mask after mask, to hide my quirks and to show up in the world as others expected me to be. I lost sight of who I was; even though I was performing gender the “right” way for the most part, I still didn’t succeed at keeping those friends. I have now learned that the more I am authentically me, and loud about it, the more the right people come into my life and stay.
I was forced into this box of femininity that did NOT serve me. I never saw myself like I saw the other girls, and never felt like I belonged. The only time I’ve felt like I’ve belonged was when I got attention from men in college. It was not an intrinsic sense of belonging, but a contentment that came from seeing how I was being treated just like the other girls (hello trauma).– Me, again from the post Nonbinary and Me
It’s difficult to explain how I didn’t see myself like I saw other girls. It might be more accurate to say that I didn’t see myself as I projected how other girls saw themselves. And it didn’t help that my body didn’t develop in the same ways either (short stature, small chest, more of a square but pudgy middle, thick thighs). It was hard to ever feel beautiful, especially as I never felt like my outer appearance reflected my inner self, though I didn’t know why. No feminine expression ever really felt right. The most beautiful I ever felt was in a messy bun and sweats. In fact, that was when I got complimented the most. I theorize it’s because I was comfortable, and therefore more able to be authentic. It never crossed my mind that I could be something other than a girl, not even when I encountered trans people for the first time and started to learn about how I fit into the LGBTQIA+ community in sexuality (probably because nonbinary wasn’t a part of that world yet in the way that it is now). Every instance of “failure” I experienced at performing my gender directly affected my intrinsic sense of self-worth. Instead of “failing at being a girl” it felt like I was just failing at being human, at being me. And I really couldn’t understand why that was.
A lot of trans people have said and will continue to say, “Oh I’ve always know I wasn’t my AGAB.” These folx usually have stories to tell of how they defied gender stereotypes for that explicit purpose/understanding. For me, I’ve always known I was different neurologically (maybe not in those terms, but I knew I was different and that I couldn’t change). Gender, however, was never questioned because I was never presented another option. There are girls, and boys—that’s it. My version of “girl” growing up was “tomboy.” And after a certain point, “tomboy” was no longer acceptable.
And so, there was a complete disconnect inside of me, and not because I wanted a different gender’s body. I wanted a different body alright, but a different “girl” body so that I could pass as a girl better. All I wanted was to be a perfect daughter and someone a man would find worthy enough to marry. These were the virtues I was taught took precedence, even over my intellect. I could go to school and get a good job, but it really didn’t mean much unless I got married and had kids (as is the plight for women under the outdated rules of patriarchy, especially those who are consumed by the Christian Church as I was then).
In my brain, I’m just human–without qualifiers. I’m just ME.
I’ve said in the past that I feel like all the genders at once, or none at all, or I’ll slide fluidly between many. But that was only an attempt to describe how much gender just doesn’t work in my brain. Those were the words I knew to use to convey how things work for me, as best I could. Nonbinary has worked, but it’s been like wearing a shoe that’s just barely too tight. You can get away with wearing it fine for a while, but after a whole day of walking around, you’re sore and worse for wear. It’s a bit stifling. Suffocating. It’s still a box, even when there is no right or wrong way to be nonbinary (it’s paradoxical because there’s no right or wrong way to be any kind of gender). For this reason I sometimes prefer genderqueer to nonbinary (it conveys more room to move around in for me). I’d rather just not be a part of the system at all though. I’d rather be a constellation of what makes up ME, where I choose the things I do and do not like and exist as a human on this earth without being forced into labels or skewed understanding. Adding “autigender” to my nonbinary label, then, allows me that liberation from the whole spectrum even as I operate within it.
I do believe my neurology has played the biggest role in not only trapping me into “womanhood” for so long, but also in my liberation from it. I was a girl for so long because my environment told me I was. Many autists are very literal people, myself included. I just accepted I was a girl, and a poor one at that. I couldn’t truly grasp gender before, but now looking through the lens of my autism, everything just makes sense. I needed new information and a safe space to try other identities on, and I’m so grateful that’s what I found myself in just a few years ago, and continue to find. Give me the space and tools to be creative, and I will create! And man did I ever create a masterpiece, one that is wholly reflective of who I am and not who I was projected to be.
Exploring gender, sexuality, or neurodiversity? Remember, everything is at your own pace. And I can help! If you’d like to talk with someone about what you’re going through, I offer consulting services on a sliding scale. Please don’t hesitate to reach out through the contact tab on the main menu. 🥰
And soon I will be offering life coaching! Stay tuned!