On Being Trans & Autistic
Autism Awareness Day 2022 Guest Blog by Katy H.
I was visiting a friend from Tumblr irl (in real life) for the first time, and she would not stop talking about tarot cards. Why didn’t she notice that I’d stopped responding at all 10 minutes ago or how I was slumped over like a bored kid in class? When I complained later to a different friend, instead of agreeing with me that it was unforgivably rude, she just said softly, “I try to be patient about stuff like that with my autistic friends.”
I was sitting in a workshop about herbal medicine and the presenter talked about being autistic and the different ways he used plant medicine to navigate that. A tincture you could take when you were overwhelmed at the mall? A tea for when words wouldn’t form in your brain? I covered pages of my journal in frantic notes. It was like drinking water when you didn’t realize how thirsty you were. Afterward, I told someone that I thought I might be autistic for the first time.
Lots of trans people are autistic, and lots of autistic people are trans. In fact, recent research found that up to 24% of gender-diverse people reported being autistic.
Being trans can mean a bunch of different things, and so can being autistic. They are both umbrella terms and anything you think applies to everyone always has exceptions. The best we can do is to make room for people to do what works for them in particular. That starts with respect, setting aside judgments & assumptions, and extending each other some grace.
There are tools that can make it easier to navigate a world that can be really unwelcoming and unpleasant to trans and/or autistic people. Things that make internal experiences more comfortable include fidgets and hormones or social technologies like non-gendered bathrooms and communicating directly when you’re very bored listening to tarot explanations or maybe even just appreciating when people share their special interests with you.
I think the biggest similarity is that being trans and being autistic are both stigmatized. People can spend a lot of effort trying to seem to themselves and the world like they aren’t those things. But both are beautiful and important and frankly sacred ways to be human in the world. By existing unapologetically as ourselves, we shine a light for other people to see themselves.