On the side of the angels

ombre-de-citronI have come lately, willy nilly, to the realisation that it’s very likely that I am to be found somewhere along the autism spectrum. The reason why I say “very likely” is that I’m deliberately maintaining some provisionality, uncertainty about this.

Partly because it’s a lot to take in, but partly because there are many, many facets to how AS can present, and some of them map congruently onto the Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome I’m also living with. So I’ve needed to do a lot of teasing out first, a lot of running the light through a prism.

And it seems to me, having done that, and a lot of reading and discussing with my various aspie friends, that though some of my aspie-congruent traits are also PTSS-congruent, many are very much not. The upshot of this is that if I am on the aspie spectrum, I still won’t know with any real certainty which is causing what, when it comes to the traits that map onto both the AS and PTSS. Also, I’m reluctant to acquire another label, and reluctant to call myself something that I’m uncertain I am (and honestly, also afraid to incur the displeasure of aspies out there for saying I’m something when I may not be).

Pragmatically, however… since I’ve been doing my reading and discussing, I’ve found that not only can I make a lot more sense of myself, but I’m able to apply some of the models used to conceptualise AS very effectively to manage some of the states I get into that I was assuming were caused by my PTSS (and that I’d found no way of effectively engaging with until now). And more fundamentally: I intuit this – and I trust my intuition.

By the way, you may have noticed by now that I’ve edited my heading to do away with the now deprecated “PTSD” in favour of PTSS, since Post-Traumatic Stress is these days thankfully more perceived as a Syndrome, and not a Disorder. It took receiving a full and positive diagnosis of PTSS to make me feel able to make this change, which is interesting, innit.

So there it is. Having just recently finally received this PTSS diagnosis, one consequence is that at some point in the near(ish) future, I’ll be coming under the care of the local Mental Health team, who will be looking at ways to support me better with this. That seems like a good context for raising the possibility of me being aspie as well. I’m not going further than this for the moment in terms of Being Certain. But the congruence is extreme, so it’s hard to just sit here and Be Uncertain – one of my classic traits is that I Want To See The Map!

Anyway, this is all a bit by-the-by, I just wanted to mention it because it’s what’s going on at the moment, but also as context for the main part of this blog-thing, which is about an article from the Huffington Post, entitled Is There a Link Between Autism and Gender Dysphoria?

I was drawn to this article because I’m exploring my possible aspieness at the moment, but also because of the posited connexion with gender identity. A number of things bother me about the article – although it’s not actually the article, which is itself nicely open-ended, and is just written as a jumping-off point for the discussion, I think. What’s bothering me is the array of assumptions that appear to be at the root of the research and its conclusions.

There is far too much tendency out there in the first place to pathologise both autism and gender dysphoria. These studies of gender dysphoric autistic people seem to be assuming a pathological link on the wings of that previous pathologising, and then they’re looking for evidence to back that dubious premise up.

My own theory as to why there appear to be relatively more AS people than NT (neurotypical) people with gender dysphoria is twofold, and to do with culture, not pathology.

Firstly, AS people are simply more likely to discover and acknowledge earlier in life any gender dysphoria that they have, because they’re being forced pretty much every day to question their whole identity and behaviour – both from within, and by a culture that is very unforgiving of variations from “the norm”.  NT people are much more rarely forced to question themselves in the first place. It can take some NT people right up until their 70s to recognise that they’re experiencing gender dysphoria and acknowledge their need to do something about it.

It’s also very likely that AS people who are gender dysphoric are more often “outed” than dysphoric NT people, simply by their reduced ability (compared to NT people) to be able to mask their gender dysphoria under gender-stereotypical behaviour – or their reduced desire to do so.

And secondly, because AS people are forced to question their identities from the word go, they also question society’s “norms” and assumptions in general much more thoroughly than do NT people who simply fit in with all that, and for whom those “norms” are just the Way Things Are™. So AS people are less likely to buy into or conform to the gender-stereotyping and assumptions of a gender binary than most people, and are more simply being themselves.

I know many AS trans* people (particularly the younger people) who are very open and non-binary in their experience of their genders. and this is not a “disorder” of gender identity, it’s simply an acknowledgement that the binary gender system that we’re all brought up to believe is All There Is is just a over-simplistic convention, and a fantasy.

AS people not only have to contend with their own often very intense experiences, but also with a culture that’s falling over itself to find something wrong with everything about them, and assuming their different perceptions of how things are to be automatically “abnormal”.

So I find it very frustrating that the medical community should think in the terms expressed by the researches described in the article. To me, it’s like colour-blind people deciding that people who see in all colours are simply ill, and trying to classify that “illness”.


Rhapsody angelThe whole Angels thing? It’s because of Captain Scarlet. The Angels in Captain Scarlet (they all work for Spectrum, see) are a collection of kickarse female pilots with wonderful names like Harmony, Rhapsody, Melody – they were my heroes in the show (along with, for some reason, Lt. Maroon).

And it’s also because of this song by The Damned, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde.

I’m normal outside, (he’s evil inside)…The lyrics Me, I’m on the side of the Angels… (but the Devil’s my best friend…) have always stuck in my mind. I can’t explain why this seems relevant (though it’s probably got a lot to do with AS people being demonised and pathologised), it’s just been going round my head while I’ve been writing this, so don’t worry about it, just me making connexions with everything :). I apologise for the grotesque image(s) in the video that goes with this song. They are definitely not meant to be representative of anything real to do with this discussion.


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