“I am from”: a poem

I don’t plan to normally post poetry on here, but this piece I did for a recent school assignment contains themes highly relevant to this blog, so I decided I will share it. (I used to write poetry all the time; but it’s not really currently my thing. Not sure why.)

Content warnings: ableism, heterosexism, cissexism, involuntary treatment (including restraints), abuse, filicide, vague Holocaust reference, vague self-harm reference

 

i am from altitudes, latitudes, longitudes

towns and cities, forests and deserts

houses and apartments and tents and sleeping bags

i am from values – a childhood refusal of meat and an adolescent refusal of school

i am from habits – ink, fibers, fidgets, scars

 

but mostly, i am from people

i am from people who have been stigmatized

institutionalized

fetishized, pathologized

disenfranchised

sterilized, experimented on, exterminated

 

i am from people who have been kicked out – young rain, grimy streets

locked up, restrained – screaming the pierce of unwanted needles

policed – our clothes and bedrooms

impoverished – mountains of paperwork just to survive

shocked – pain meant to train us

to act less queer

and more neurotypical

sickened – empty pill bottles, turned away from the ER

misgendered – the hollow feeling of unseen selves

cis doctors can deem ineligible for transition

deadnamed – IDs betraying unasked-for history

the Ms and Fs written in stone

ignored – eyes skip over us, accommodations unmet

assumed incompetent – the fake syrup of “baby talk”

left to die – nursing homes don’t care to set us free

abused, assaulted, murdered – and our caregivers get sympathy

for how hard we must be

to deal with

 

all this, and my people

have chained themselves to buses

crawled up the steps of the capitol

testified in congress

occupied senate offices until dragged out of our wheelchairs

resisted arrest

voted where allowed

called senators on text relay

sued the state

 

my people have crowdfunded each other’s surgeries

bound each other’s chests and zipped each other’s dresses

taught each other, parentless, to apply lipstick and tie ties

given advice, doctorless, how to choose a mobility device

and how to use the apps that amplify our voice

we’ve taken in our unhoused youth

gotten married

ordained our own clergy

danced and performed and marched our true selves

crashed the conferences where professionals like to talk about us without us

designed the research no one else is doing to increase our quality of life

taught our teachers what are actually our real names

 

my people defy norms

loud – rainbows and glitter and flags

proud – rocking and flapping and drooling

our existence, in this world, is indeed resistance

 

so i am from everywhere my people are oppressed

and i am from everywhere we fight back

 

Credit: I don’t know who came up with the phrase itself, but I found the quote I referred to (“my existence is resistance”) on one of my favorite shirts to wear by Model Deviance Designs – go support them!

Thanks for reading.

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I’m trans and autistic, and yes, (for me) they’re related

My gender is autistic.

I don’t mean my gender is autism, this is not a singular noun that names something I “have”, this is one of the adjectives that describes my gender, because it is one of words that describes me as a whole.

I use lots of words to describe my gender. You’ll get the whole list. But if I get one word, if the world expects a summary, then I say “I am trans”. I am. I don’t think there is, but if there were a scale of transness from 0 to 100%, I figure I’d be around 117%. So as a summary word, it works. If I get one more word, if someone wants to pin me down into something more specific, I’ll go with nonbinary. Not a man or a woman. But wow is it more complicated than that. I want you to understand why, for me, being trans is intertwined with being autistic.

My gender does not fit into normative social expectations associated with womanhood and manhood – just like my neurotype doesn’t fit into normative social expectations in general. I’m pretty sure I don’t even understand what those social norms are. I tried to make a spreadsheet, once, to collect stereotypical traits and phenomena associated with binary genders, in order to try to correlate my own parallel traits and see if I could match up my experiences anywhere. For example, I made a category for clothes – listing quintessentially binary-coded clothes items like lingerie, pantyhose, neckties, suits, et cetera. What clothes items would people who know me consider quintessential endever*? Well, probably knee socks with cool designs (birds, rainbows, dinosaurs, books, stripes) and Harry Potter T-shirts. (The socks are partly a sensory thing, and Harry Potter is my special interest, which leads us back to… hi, yes, autistic). These are not exactly very gendery pieces of clothing. And literally I don’t even know how lingerie or business suits work. Like – sizes, fastenings, names of components…? I never learned any of that. Nor did I learn the other allistic things people drape themselves in, expecting me to understand – facial expressions, nonverbal language. I mean, for all I know there are even differences in those minutiae between typical binary gender expressions. Maybe I can have a row on my spreadsheet for quintessentially binary coded body language – and then, the column for my own would be filled by… what, stimming? I mean, I imagine that’s the way I move which stands out to any given person around me.

So yeah, my gender is autistic. I mean, hell, do neurotypical cis people even make spreadsheets to try to figure out what gender is?

I want to explain the other words I use for my gender, less common than trans and nonbinary. You may think they are absurd, too specific, meaningless trends. I do not care. I do not need your approval to be who I am.

Neurogenders are genders specific to neurodivergent people whose experience of gender relates to their neurotype or who feel they can’t fully understand gender due to their neurotype. So one of the words I use to describe my gender is neuro-enby. (Enby is short for nonbinary.)

That starts to address what I’ve described above. Really, the social norms of gender are endlessly mystifying to me. I can look at a group of men interacting or a group of women interacting and feel like… I don’t know, another species? Or maybe like a stranger visiting a foreign land and deep in culture shock? These metaphors are too cliche to be fully accurate. I just know with my whole being that these are not my people. I do not belong. I watch, but I have no idea what’s going on or why. They all seem to be using an invisible dialect that runs under and over and alongside their spoken English, and I know that if I were to approach them and try to join the conversation I would be the odd one out – even if I’m not using AAC that day. Maybe they’d assume I was a cis person of the “opposite” binary gender, maybe they’d figure I was a gender nonconforming “one of them”, or maybe they’d manage to realize I’m trans but then would spend the entire conversation staring at me hoping for some clue as to “which direction” I’ve transitioned in… or, maybe they’d just attribute my weird gender cues to a more general weirdness they might describe as outcast, crazy, eccentric, unpleasant. I mean, I can put in effort to try to “pass” as cis and neurotypical – I can try to mask my autistic traits and aim my gender expression in one direction or another – but it’s really up to them whether any of it will work. Their preconceived notions about what makes a man and what makes a woman and what makes a normal brain will filter everything about me into their personal diagnostic framework and their personal gender categories.

That’s often safer for me, to shift my behavior whatever way I can to try to blend into the crowd. But the thing is, it doesn’t always work. Maybe I’m masking and gendering as hard as I can and they still spot the fake. Because for me being a neuro-enby means I never quite get the joke. It’s not just that I feel like I’m not one of them, often they notice something about me that confirms it. People say there are five love languages or something – well, if there are two binary gender languages, I don’t understand either. If there is one allistic language, I usually need a translator. So: neuro-enby. I don’t understand allistic or binary genders, and probably never will. They are unfathomable, incomprehensible. Social constructs? Sure. But I’ve never been that good at social stuff.

Okay, so you’ve got some of my gender words now. The others are neutrois stargender/dryagender/fasciboy-flux contrabinary genderpunk.

Neutrois, neutral gender or lack of gender, gets closest to describing my relationship to my body. To be frank, that relationship consists mostly of distress: a dysphoria I experience first and foremost proprioceptively, perhaps due to the autistic way I process sensory information. Various medical interventions can ameliorate my dysphoria, get me closer to the body I feel would represent my internal sense of self better – but with that I have to be careful. If the provider finds out I’m autistic, will they decide I can’t really be trans? I try to avoid using AAC when interacting with surgeons, out of worry they’ll think I’m not competent to give consent. But… why should I have to hide who I am in order to express who I am? I am neutrois. My body feels wrong internally. Body parts are not occupying the correct airspace, nerves go in the wrong directions, when I move my center of balance feels off. This is as integral to my sensory reality as is my difficulty processing auditory information and my hypersensitivity to bright sunlight.

Stargender: there have been stars in all of my names, my first tattoos were stars, I have always felt a strong connection to the symbol as well as the actual points of light in the sky. The way words are visually/kinaesthetically spelled is more important to me than their pronunciation, due to my autistic relationship to language and speech – so yeah, my name does have a star at the end as a silent letter. That’s just how you spell it, the same way it’s all lowercase because that’s just how you spell it. That’s what looks right. Is it autistic to be so attached to a simple abstract symbol? I don’t know. But starness is more a part of me than maleness or femaleness could ever be. Plus one of the meanings, beyond simply being the gender of a star, is that stargender refers to a gender which is unknowable. So, back to me and neurogenders.

Dryagender is a gender that has to do with the feeling of an empty forest. I was born in the forest, at least in the sense that is important. I am a creature of the forest; no matter how long I live in the city, that cannot be separated from me – just like being autistic cannot be separated from me despite how long I spent surrounded by people training me to pretend otherwise.

Fascigenders are genders specific to autistic people that relate to a special interest. Well, as mentioned, Harry Potter is my special interest. I identify as who Harry would be if he were a Ravenclaw (that is, I don’t have the same personality as him, just a relatable plotline). And I swear to the gods, dying my hair black and putting on my round prescription glasses and donning robes and wand holster feel less like drag than anything else I can think of. That’s the thing – for me being neutrois means EVERYTHING feels like drag. My personal six word memoir is mostly “one long drag show: no tips”. But dressed as Harry, with maybe a striped Ravenclaw tie thrown in? That’s better. That’s maybe a little closer to me. Because my special interests are one way I express who I am. This degree of focus and enthusiasm is one of my autistic traits. I read and reread and watch and rewatch canon, I listen almost exclusively to wizard rock (fan-produced Harry Potter themed music), I collect way too much merch, I read translations of the books in Latin, Scots dialect, and other languages I want to learn, I work wizards into my school projects, I go to conventions… Harry Potter is a deep part of me. Fasciboy fits.

Flux, attached to those last three descriptors of my gender, indicates that their intensity can vary over time. As far as I can tell I’m often at least a tiny bit stargender, a tiny bit dryagender, and a tiny bit fasciboy – but at some times might not be all of them at once. And the amounts can be more than just a tiny bit; the amounts and proportions vary over time. I don’t bother noticing from day to day how much of each I am, I’m just so accustomed to fluctuations I don’t take note of them unless I consciously consider it. Maybe this could relate to alexithymia and problems with interoception and other autistic differences in reading internal states, or maybe it’s just not important to me to narrow down, I don’t know.

Okay, now the juicy ones are left, which is that I’m a contrabinary genderpunk. I made up, to the best of my knowledge, the adjective contrabinary, but genderpunk has been around for awhile. Contrabinary means my gender is in direct opposition to the gender binary system – it’s not just that it doesn’t fit comfortably within that system, it’s that it actively defies it. My contrabinary gender exists as a proclamation of war. (Okay, I’ve got nothing against noncissexist people who personally identify as a single binary gender, it’s the construct and the violence implicit to it that are the problem.) And for me genderpunk, which I use as more of a noun, represents some of the style and politics of resistance I associate with my gender. It’s a word I endeavor to embody the way I endeavor to embody “autpunk”. That is: screw the cops, stim with pride, down with cis, eat the rich, defiance not compliance, binders and glitter, spikes and patches, chew necklaces and wearable AAC. I will fuck up your normal with my autistic brain and my trans body and my special interest clothes and the way I move and the way I communicate and my scribbles over your check-one-box paperwork and my anti-cure response to your medical model and yeah, the way I spell my name.

My gender is autistic. Maybe a month from now or a year from now or a decade from now I’ll have found a different set of words to feel like home in, but for now this collection describes how these aspects of who I am define each other.

If you know someone else who is neurogender, or another gender you’ve never heard of, or simply autistic plus trans of any kind: believe them when they tell you who they are. TELL them you believe them. And then tell the world that you believe us, and so should everyone.