When Your Sex Bites You In Your Autistic Ass

I’m a cis male, but my autistic traits correlate with those of cis female individuals.

The study of autism is plagued with sexism, even to this day. There is definitely more awareness of the problem nowadays, but the prevalent view of how autism presents in people is largely based on antiquated stereotypes. If you are white, male, and you annoy your parents, you are more likely to get diagnosed by the professionals, than if you are not white, not male, and manage to mask your autism.

(A quick note on my terminological choices. I have no idea how being trans or nonbinary may affect autistic presentation. I don’t mean to exclude, but I also don’t want to speak about things that I’m not familiar with. I’m sorry about this.)

I believe now that my own deceased mother was autistic too, but went undiagnosed because of this sexism. She was bipolar, and alcoholic. These are often the conditions that women who are not diagnosed experience. She was treated for both conditions, but no treatment took. These treatments did not take, because they were dealing with the symptoms of autism, without dealing with the autism itself.

Early on in my research about autism, I came upon this site:

https://embrace-autism.com/

I’ve taken many of the self-assessment tests there, and I always end up neurotypical or borderline autistic. The DSM-5 is not helpful either. Actually, I think it is a step back from the online self-assessment tests. No psychiatrist of mine has ever suggested autism as an explanation for my mental troubles. I’ll remind you that I’m self-diagnosed.

Fediverse user @ImmedicableME recently posted a link to this page:

https://the-art-of-autism.com/females-and-aspergers-a-checklist/

I’ve gone through all the traits there, and I do find a substantial amount of these traits apply to me.

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It is not the first time I find that the female presentation of autism is more reflective of how I present, too. In the book Unmasking Autism by Devon Price, the author talks of a period of time during which doctors talked about male and female autism. When I was reading this book, I could easily see my traits listed among those that doctors assigned to females.

In fiction, too, I find myself closer to the female autistic characters than the male ones. I am nothing like Rain Man, or Sheldon Cooper. I’m not rude, nor do I have an obsession with trains. The character I compare myself readily to is Quinni from Heartbreak High, an autistic girl.

For the record, I do not think that it is scientifically valid, or useful to talk about “male” and “female” autism anymore. I do not have a problem with the page I linked to above, which gives a list of traits generally linked with being female. It is important to raise the awareness that autism in females may present differently than the stereotypes.

However, once the awareness has been raised, it is better to drop the labels male and female. I am a cis male who presents mostly like a female. I think, just like my mother was undiagnosed because she did not present the male stereotype, so am I have been undiagnosed by the professionals because I do not present as the male stereotype either. Still, again, once I’ve given this explanation, I no longer want to use the binary to explain autism.

Now, I don’t have a great explanation for why I present the way I do. I suspect the pressure of living with a narcissistic father are partially to blame. I sometimes say that I don’t experience meltdowns, but this is not correct. I do experience them, but very rarely. My father, however, is an expert at triggering meltdowns in me. He knows exactly what buttons to push. Therefore, to avoid presenting too big an opportunity to him to press my buttons, I’ve learned to camouflage my autism.

My mother’s and my case are direct examples of how sexism hinders our access to medical care. We’ve both been bitten in the ass because of our manifestation of symptoms did not conform to the stereotype.


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9 responses to “When Your Sex Bites You In Your Autistic Ass”

  1. not ch1c Avatar

    @yourautisticlife a lot to relate to there, thank you for posting

  2. Emily Moran Barwick Avatar

    @yourautisticlife

    I agree the male/female distinction is unhelpful at best. The whole thing about neurodiversity is diversity

    It's interesting to hear how you feel more aligned w/the typical "female" presentation

    I'm intimately familiar with one's #neurodiversity being *completely* missed

    I can also identify w/not "fitting" some checkboxes

    We have a LONG way to go on the research/diagnostic side. I feel #ActuallyAutistic self-advocates are making strides far outpacing anything "official"

  3. Josh Susser Avatar

    @yourautisticlife @ImmedicableME There seems to be a high correlation between being autistic and being queer, especially being trans. That leads some of us to think of being queer as part of neurodiversity, so I'm never surprised when ND folk discover they aren't as perfectly cishet as they thought. Also, being autistic means a lifetime of fighting against bad stereotypes and mistaken assumptions. I don't think it's a stretch to think that translates to other parts of our identities.

    1. lee :Fire_Trans: Avatar

      @joshsusser @yourautisticlife @ImmedicableME it's not just something that seems true – we have research that shows the correlation between transness and autism!

      I'm a trans autistic person so happy to add to your analysis if you have specific questions, OP. I agree that using labels of "male" and "female" autism is unhelpful and binarist. I like Price's terminology better.

  4. sean, with words Avatar

    @yourautisticlife @ImmedicableME I am definitely also someone who "fits" more the "female" presentation of Autism. I am also, about 20 months into realizing that I'm Autistic, beginning to understand that my masking included gender masking

  5. ImmedicableME Avatar

    @yourautisticlife @actuallyautistic Perhaps it’s not really traits found in female autism and simply lesser-recognized traits or traits more often seen in autistic people who are able to mask or in those with a certain type of social/emotional intelligence.

    I’m not familiar with research addressing why these are ascribed to females, but it seems that traits attributed to sex (and to some extent gender, since some of this could be due to sex-based socialization) are becoming irrelevant.

    1. Kevin Davy Avatar

      @ImmedicableME @yourautisticlife @actuallyautistic
      As a male who also identifies with a lot of, if not most, of these traits. This is how I read it too. That what is being described, are the traits most associated with the ability to mask long term and remain off the radar, so to speak. As opposed to anything specifically gendered. Except in so far as they may often be considered more likely to be adopted perhaps, by female presenting.

  6. Poloniousmonk Avatar

    @yourautisticlife

    Thank you! I too am cis m and present a lot more of these traits than a traditional questionaire. I think it comes down to hitting people. Hitting people never would have worked for me growing up because i was always outnumbered by everyone-to-one. I learned how to turtle up and hold it until they got tired of kicking me rather than how to red rage and kick back.

    I'd be curious to know if cis m Jewish autists track here as well, from Jew-Christain history.

  7. Scruffy Dux :krita: :inkscape: Avatar

    @yourautisticlife And I'm sort of your inverse. I do have a lot of the stereotypical "male" traits and can be quite like Sheldon Cooper. But as I'm cis-ish female-ish (I relate to gendermeh or Schrödinger's gender) it was never even considered I was autistic despite it being pretty blindingly obvious.

    Just all round bad ideas regarding sex, gender and who is permitted to have their autism acknowledged.

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