JULY IS DISABILITY PRIDE MONTH and because many trans people are also autistic, I wanted to talk about autism.

I spoke with five trans autistic folks to share their voices & experience.

Read on to learn a few things trans autistic folks want you to know about being trans & autistic.

LET’S START WITH A DEFINITION:

Autism is a developmental disability that affects how people experience the world around them. Autism is classified in the DSM-V as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) along two main criteria: 1) Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, and 2) Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

Note on language: Most autistic folks prefer identity-first language (”I am autistic,”) instead of person-first language (“I am a person with autism.”) because saying someone “has autism” often implies that a) autism is bad and something a person needs separating from, and b) it is something someone can have instead of just an identity that they are. In this post, I use identity-first language given the feedback from autistic folks that identity-first language is most respectful, unless told explicitly otherwise. If you are autistic and prefer the person-first language, that’s absolutely your right!

ANYONE OF ANY GENDER CAN BE AUTISTIC

For a multitude of reasons, autism is stereotypically thought of as something that only (cis) boys exhibit, but anyone of any gender can be autistic.

“As an autistic AFAB* person, my autism was written off by doctors a million times when I was a young girl. It wasn’t until I started transitioning that any of my autistic traits were taken seriously by medical professionals, despite the fact that these traits had been present my whole life. This narrative is true for many other AFAB autistic people I know, too.”
–DYLAN KAPIT

“They gendered my autistic traits, and we see this in the “extreme male brain theory.” –TEE

*AFAB = Assigned female at birth

AUTISTIC FOLKS CAN KNOW THEY’RE TRANS

Autistic trans folks’ trans identities are often doubted by society and even by medical and mental health professionals due to their autism. This is inappropriate and inaccurate.

“Autistic people are very capable of knowing that they are trans, and autistic people’s trans identities need to be taken just as seriously as non-autistic people’s trans identities.” – DYLAN KAPIT

AUTISM & TRANSNESS CAN FEEL LINKED… OR NOT

“For some autistic people, their trans identities are understood as being inextricably linked to their autism, and for other people, like myself, they feel like very separate identities.”
– DYLAN KAPIT

”My identity as trans and my identity as Autistic are not two separate things. They don’t just intersect. They are one. They’re me. I am human as much as I am Autistic as much as I am trans as much as I am every other identity that I hold.”
– OLIVER QUINCY

“The relationship between my Autism, gender and Indigeneity inextricably inform one another.”
–PINAR ATEŞ SINOPOULOS-LLOYD

RACE INTERSECTS WITH AUTISM & TRANSNESS

BIPOC folks are less likely to be diagnosed with autism [2] and less likely to receive appropriate resources. Just like people of any gender can be autistic, people of any race can, too.

”I want people to understand that it’s scary sometimes. Being a trans autistic person, specifically a Black trans autistic person is sometimes scary to think about. Being black and autistic is already hard enough, and we don’t get treated the same as white autistics and are seen as “evil” and “scary” in the eyes of many people. But also being trans is even harder, as sometimes I feel like I’ll never be truly able to be myself because of how different I am from others. As much as I love to be on here and show others my pride, in the real world it’s scary to be as open as I am on here.” –EYLIANDA HANNE

TRANS AUTISTIC FOLKS DEAL WITH A LOT OF STIGMA

Due to how pathologized autism often is, autistic folks who hold other marginalized identities often experience compounded and complex discrimination.

“Being trans & autistic is a beautiful thing, but sometimes having two very stigmatized identities at the same time is really difficult.” –DYLAN KAPIT

GENDER DIVERSITY IS INTERSECTIONAL

“Chances are that if you know trans people, you also know trans autistic folks. This means that your understanding of gender diversity should also include neurodiversity.” –DYLAN KAPIT



Support and learn from trans autistic folks by following them below.

As aforementioned, in making this post, I wrote to five amazing autistic trans folks and asked them the following question: “What are three main things you’d like people to understand about you, specifically with regards to your experience as a trans autistic person?” I pulled from their answers to inform and make this post, and here are their answers in full:

Dylan Kapit, they/them (@TransTeacherTales)

Dylan Kapit (they/them) is a queer, trans, non-binary, autistic Jew. They are currently located in Pittsburgh, where they are working on their PhD in special education, with a focus on creating sex education materials for other autistic folks. 

  1. As an autistic AFAB* person, my autism was written off by doctors a million times when I was a young girl. It wasn’t until I started transitioning that any of my autistic traits were taken seriously by medical professionals, despite the fact that these traits had been present my whole life. This narrative is true for many other AFAB autistic people I know, too.
  2. Autistic people are very capable of knowing that they are trans, and autistic people’s trans identities need to be taken just as seriously as non-autistic people’s trans identities. For some autistic people, their trans identities are understood as being inextricably linked to their autism, and for other people, like myself, they feel like very separate identities.
  3. Being trans & autistic is a beautiful thing, but sometimes having two very stigmatized identities at the same time is really difficult. Chances are that if you know trans people, you also know trans autistic folks. This means that your understanding of gender diversity should also include neurodiversity.

Compensate Dylan for their labor on Venmo @dkapit94.

Eylianda Hanne, they/them (@authentic.autistic_)

  1. I want people to understand that regardless of how I present I am still non-binary. I present very feminine and love to wear makeup and dresses, but I’m still non-binary and dressing feminine or masculine doesn’t change my gender.
  2. I want people to understand that trans support is also autistic support, because a lot of autistic people’s gender is linked with their autistic identity. This is true in my case, as since I’m autistic I don’t really understand the gender norms of society and personally don’t feel like I have a gender. I feel like I’m just me. Idk how to really describe it but I’m just a person. I’m pretty sure that if I wasn’t autistic I’d probably be cis.
  3. I want people to understand that it’s scary sometimes. Being a trans autistic person, specifically a black trans autistic person is sometimes scary to think about. Being black and autistic is already hard enough, and we don’t get treated the same as white autistics and are seen as “evil” and “scary” in the eyes of many people. But also being trans is even harder, as sometimes I feel like I’ll never be truly able to be myself because of how different I am from others. As much as I love to be on here and show others my pride, in the real world it’s scary to be as open as I am on here.

Compensate Eylianda for thier labor via Paypal: mdegroa@gmail.com.

Oliver Quincy, they/them (@MyAutisticSoul)

  1. My identity as trans and my identity as Autistic are not two separate things. They don’t just intersect. They are one. They’re me. I am human as much as I am Autistic as much as I am trans as much as I am every other identity that I hold.
  2. My entire existence lies on the fact that I am Autistic, and so everything else that I am also lies in my Autistic identity. My brain works differently, and in that difference I discovered my gender identity. I discovered I was trans. Maybe it’s because the Autistic brain doesn’t quite understand neurotypical existence, and thus doesn’t feel bound by the social norms and ways of thinking that they create. I think differently, and I am so glad that I do. Because if I didn’t, I may have never known.
  3. One does not cause the other. I am not Autistic because I am trans, and I am not trans because I am Autistic. They just so happen to both coincide in me, to create me. I think that’s really neat.

Compensate Oliver for their work here on Venmo @myautisticsoul.

Tee, they/them (@unnmasked)

I believe that being autistic has affected the way I identify.

Growing up I saw what I wore and liked as what I wore and liked, not “girly.”

It was everyone else, and especially fundamentalist religion, that gendered everything I said and did.

And the “masculine things” were seen as bad and the “feminine” things good, and the Pokémon and Harry Potter things were seen as demonic.

And the masculine things were a lot just the autistic things, the lack of facial expression and the not wanting to be touched and the disregard of their spiritual teachings.

They gendered my autistic traits, and we see this in the “extreme male brain theory.”

I had to mask x3, I had to pretend to be Christian and pretend to be Neurotypical and pretend I didn’t like the girl in my biology class with the copper red hair.

So you might think it just sounds like I’m a woman who likes what I like.

But I don’t like that. Doesn’t fit for me as someone’s whose never fallen comfortably in place within the binary.

Then I learned about non-binary. I like that. I’m allowed to still like pink and soft things. Because gender is different from expression. Because pastel colors are easy on my eyes, because faux fur is sensory heaven.

I want to add: I was evaluated to have learning disabilities that affect the way I retain and process information, and the way I order numbers. I encountered alot of sexism from certain spaces on the internet. I thought I was “dumb” because I was a woman, that’s what I was told. So I tried to distance myself from that too. But that didn’t work, mostly because that’s just completely false. The way we view intelligence is flawed. Trying to fit into either space has never worked for me. So currently I’m comfortable not doing that. Time will tell.

Compensate Tee for their labor on Venmo and Cashapp @kizzatee.

Pınar Ateş Sinopoulos-Lloyd, they/them/o/pay (@QueerQuechua)

The relationship between my Autism, gender and Indigeneity inextricably inform one another. They’re the keystones of my ecosystem. If you want me to speak to my Quechua lineage, I will speak about our cultural/place-informed gender. If you want me to speak to my Autism, I’ll speak about my multi-species transness informed by my Indigeneity. If you want me to speak to my gender, I’ll speak about my neurodivergence and being pathologized, institutionalized and incarcerated for the intersections of these three keystones.

Gender-variance is tradition.

Neurodivergence is tradition.

2S and Trans + Gender-Variant Natives are medicine.

Autism carries a magic as does gender shapeshifting and Indigeneity.

There is also a shared experience with trans folx where we are pathologized and often have our realities questioned. Where our rights to our bodily autonomy and Gender Sovereignty are questioned.

Honor our bodily + neurological autonomy. We are formations of the Earth and are gifts to our communities.

Compensate Pinar for their labor on Venmo @pinar-yaku.

MORE RESOURCES:

[1] https://autisticadvocacy.org/about-asan/about-autism/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2661453/

[3] https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/addm-community-report/differences-in-children.html

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