Hello, and welcome back to Optimisticality's little tiny slice of the www. Its here that I jot down my thoughts and the wandering wonderings of a wistful mind. Today I was catching up on some long over due reading from a friend and fellow writer, Kieran Rose. Kieran owns, and arguably is, "the Autistic advocate" and runs the blog of the same name. Recently he has expanded and there are many exciting things happening that I am sure you all might hear about later. Why am I mentioning Kieran? Well. Autism and "Gender Incongruence" (the posh name for experiencing gender dysphoria) have been linked by some in a causal sense. Now ...hold on before anyone reading gets all aggrieved, this causal argument is not one that I agree with. BUT.... there are some similarities and some very relatable points when one considers what it is like to live in a society with either autism or GI, or both, and how that society relates to us as people. The following are extracts from an article written by Kieran, and if you would like to read the full article.. here's the link. I heartily recommend you do read it.
An Autistic Invalidation By Kieran Rose 19 years of being bullied, of being excluded, of trying desperately to fit in with your peers, with your environment and for what? To be so physically and mentally exhausted by it that you actually feel like you can no longer live.
From a certain perspective, this young person is lucky. That or just more resilient. It happened to me at 14 as I described in 'How to Hide your Autism' and 'An Autistic Education'. Mid teens seems to be an optimum age for Autistic young people to want to step out of life. Please bear in mind I use 'lucky' flippantly. He wasn't lucky at all. If your life has been driven to that point, lucky should not be in anyone's vocabulary to describe it.
What is it that's driving large numbers of Autistic children and young people to self-harm, to become so anxious and wound up that they refuse to go to school, that they withdraw to their rooms?
What is it that forces many of them to go through this alone without seeking help from parents; and that, if they survive through this, sets them up for a life time of successive failures and periods of repeating this over and over again.
What the young person is referring to in the quote above is Autistic Burnout. What causes Autistic Burnout, aside from the stresses of actually living, is Autistic Masking.
But what causes the Masking? ....
I and many other Autistic people have talked about why Autistic people Mask from an Autistic perspective. I've used words and phrases such as self-protection, hiding in plain sight, fitting in, normalising, camouflaging and passing...
What I haven't really touched on yet, and this post, a summary of the previous six weeks, is the perfect opportunity to do so, is why Autistic people Mask from a Non-Autistic perspective.
The answer to that is the word 'Invalidation'.
There is story, after story, after story, of people being turned away from diagnosis by Doctors, whose understanding of Autism seemed to stop being added to, shortly after the release of Rain Man.
There is story, after story, after story of children taking years to get a diagnosis (if they get one at all) by diagnosticians whose knowledge of Autism is reliant on the DSMs and ICDs of this world; and whom have no wider experience upon which to base their decision.
There is story, after story, after story, of Autistic people young and old, who have Burnout repeatedly dismissed by medical professionals who do not understand what it is, have no clue and seem to think that the answer to everything is Depression and anti-Depressants.
What does all this add up to?
Being stopped in ones tracks.
Now Kierans original article is much much long and in depth...and I am not about to try and speak in any way for the autistic perspective here. But If any of you reading this have gender dysphoria and are in the process of, or are considering, transitioning there is one word in the above extract that I can almost guarantee you will have noticed. Passing.
The social implications of living with GI and Autism, which in my view are both examples of socially excluded neurodiversity, are very similar. I recently spent days, literally days on twitter defending the physiological existence of all trans gender people from those who suggest its simply a dishonest way to live a life and doesn't represent a true version of "reality". Even when presented with peer reviewed, published evidence the people concerned stick to their mantra of "nope - you're not well. what would you know?" in so doing assuming that they have all the context they need in just 8 words.
Contrast that with Kieran's comments above about medical professionals.. (and by the way there are some in the medical world with that title who still don't "see" gender incongruence and/or gender dysphoria clearly enough) and you can't help but begin to spot the similarities. Those who would pathologise the incidences of gender dysphoria (GD ) point to borderline personality disorder (BPD) and Autism as differential diagnosis that would explain the occurrence of GD whilst not actually legitimising it. (*cough*cough* Dr Soh..*cough*cough*...) But that isn't where I'm going here. In my view, and seemingly that of many autistic individuals, autism itself has been wrongly categorised. What is simply an expression of human neurodiversity has been dubbed a pathological condition and by extension a "fault" that needs to be "fixed" In doing so one inevitably attracts the attention of those who will link an ethical argument to any treatments and then adopt a very paternalistic view of discourse with the population in question. This then results in any objection from that population being met with "There there never mind - its for your own good you know"
As for people presenting to the medical profession with Gender dysphoria, or coming out to a family that has, shall we say, a conservative view of "the natural order of things" ringing any bells yet? It certainly did for me. I may have mentioned this before but I'm a fan of watching philosophy tube.. (what do you mean you didn't notice?) Oliver Thorne in his video here looking at community politics actually has a great point:
"Political families built on a vulnerability are always going to have an appeal" And what is the vulnerability of those with GD and/or Autism ? Like kieran says. Invalidation.
That our view of the world and ourselves doesn't fit the current categorical systems used to describe humans. Thus that world view is deemed to be defective, to "need fixing" and "assimilating" into the very same categorical systems that are not fit for purpose. But we are not gonna be assimilated. Resitiance is NOT futile.
(10 bonus points if anyone spots the Star Trek reference) We are, to use a term from Falguni Sheth, "unruly" and whilst that may be our shared vulnerability. it's also the source of our very strength.
So just do you, if it's safe for you to do so. & set phasers to awesome.
Got any questions or ideas?
Bibliography and links to Kieran's online spaces: https://www.theautisticadvocate.com/2018/09/an-autistic-invalidation.html https://www.facebook.com/theautisticadvocate/
Oliver Thorne video "why the left will win"
Falguni Sheth - Towards a political philosophy of race.