This is a brief blog and resources working in tandem with the session on the intersectionality between autism, & the fluidity of gender & sexual preference.
Gender and sexual diversity on the spectrum
Simplistically, there is a large proportion of autistics who identify in a way other than their biological sex (i.e. the physical sex they were born with), and who are attracted to those who are the same biological sex, or attracted to the person, regardless of biology or gender identity etc. (we are aware it is more complicated than this, and as long as all our consenting and above the age of consent, there is no right way to be attracted to or in a relationship with someone/multiple someones).
As we know, gender is not the same as biological sex, and is a result of social conditioning: biological boys/males are not biologically born having to be a certain way (e.g. have a “manly” beard and physique; like football; do “man” jobs such as builder etc.), the same way that biological girls/women are not predisposed to be “feminine” (mother; housewife; like dolls etc.).
As gender (not biology) is socially constructed (and changes over time, and cultures etc.) it does not necessarily make sense to some autistics who are very logical (etc.), and so they/we do not conform to the social expectations of how we should be. Arguably, we are/can be more prone to being “resistant to social conditioning” – Walsh, Krabbendam, Dewinter, Begeer (2018) – GO AUTISM!
Annette (SYA?) is aware of the high incidence of autistics who are (e.g.) female, non-binary, trans, queer, other (etc.; FnBT+) in the community. This led her to carry out workshops with autistics who identify as FnBT+ to articulate their experiences as they are sub-identities within the autistic community who are often left out of the autism research. Those who identify as FnBT+ may then in turn have different sexualities, such as LGBTQ+ (not exhaustive, see featured image above). Because attraction and love are…attraction and love.
Neurodivergent Rebels: An Autistic Perspective on Gender – My Personal Experience
By Jamie Freed, from the Asperger/Autism Network:
“[The] natural inclination to be oneself and not follow the crowd or societal norms, seems to correlate with a higher than average incidence of individuals on the spectrum having greater variance and flexibility in the areas of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Many on the Autism spectrum do not subscribe to the prevailing binary definitions.
Sexual Orientation: (To whom one is attracted) While many [autistics] firmly identify as heterosexual others firmly identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Still others may be more flexible regarding whom they are attracted to; being sexually attracted to an individual for who they are as a person regardless of the other person’s biological gender, gender identity or gender expression.
Other Autistics may identify as Asexual or Aromantic in higher numbers than in the general population.
Gender Identity: (How one thinks of oneself with regard to gender – man/woman/transgender/any number of non-binary descriptors; genderqueer, gender fluid…….)
Societal messages around gender run very deep from the pink and blue clothing and room decor bestowed on expectant parents who found out “what” they’re having to the It’s a Girl, It’s a Boy balloons waving outside newborn homes to gendered toys to public bathrooms.
This gender, assigned at birth, is determined by external genitalia and for the vast majority aligns with gender identity and expression. This is called being cisgender.
[Autistics] may be less susceptible to buying into the prevailing binary gender identities and instead more readily identify or know that they are non-binary or transgender. [knowledge that one is the opposite of the gender assigned at birth – Male to Female (MtF), Female to Male, (FtM)] Less constrained by the strong societal messages and more inclined to be oneself, [autistics] may more readily identify as Transgender than their non-autistic counterparts who may be more susceptible to strong societal messages about remaining their gender assigned at birth.
Gender Expression:(Gender expressed by an individual’s outward appearance and perceived by others) For many on the Autism spectrum outward presentation of gender may have more to do with sensory issues than identification with accepted expressions of masculinity or femininity. Dressing for comfort rather than style or fashion, having hygiene practices that don’t match the prevailing societal expectations may lead to erroneous assumptions about one’s gender and/or sexual orientation.
Still others may wish to present as cis-gender (gender expression matching sex assigned at birth) while others on the spectrum may choose and be most comfortable presenting outwardly as a gender not matching their biological sex.
For some individuals, autistic and not, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression may fluctuate over the course of one’s lifetime. They may be more flexible or fluid.”
SYA? see the autistic ability to be non-conformist as a great strength of our community!
Walsh, R. J., Krabbendam, L., Dewinter, J., & Begeer, S. (2018). Brief report: Gender identity differences in autistic adults: Associations with perceptual and socio-cognitive profiles. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 1-9. doi: 10.1007/s10803-018-3702-y