This blog almost didn’t get written because WordPress changed how it displays things and I couldn’t find the link for creating a new post. I’m sharing this trivial piece of news because it makes a great lead-in to what I want to write about tonight, which is that I don’t think people should fix things that aren’t broken, and I’m talking specifically both about having Aspergers and being transgender.
I have a lot of thoughts bouncing around my head right now because it’s late and I’m tired and hungry and haven’t written a blog since Thursday. And because I don’t really want to write about the thing I’m about to write about. It touches on my gender issues and my identity as a person with Aspergers so it’s hard to write about. Also, this article is going to be a little bit more trans-centered than anything I’ve written for this blog so far.
Anyway, it’s come to my attention that sometimes people think that if you have Aspergers syndrome, then you’re not really who you say you are, when it comes to your gender identity. Some people think that Aspergian people are confused about what gender they identify as or just think they’re transgender but can’t possibly know because they have Aspergers. I think it’s part of the pernicious, false belief that if you have Aspergers the world of emotions, especially your own, is inaccessible to you and you’re just guessing at what people feel because you have no feelings.
No, no, no. And no again in case you missed it the first couple of times. Having Aspergers does not mean being devoid of all emotion and all ability to empathize. There’s a study floating around the Internet saying that people with Aspergers feel more than their neurotypical counterparts, that we feel so much that we get overwhelmed and shut down. That we empathize more and feel more and are more passionate, but we don’t know how to communicate it. And that is the truth, at least in my experience. Sometimes I don’t know the words for what I’m feeling. I feel so much that it’s hard to separate out just one feeling and for some reason I can’t always match the vocabulary to the feeling. But make no mistake about it: I feel. And I care. And I hurt not just for myself but for the whole world sometimes because I know there are people in this world who are broken hearted and I know there are people in this world who don’t see any better options than to die and end the pain quickly, and even though I may never meet these people and may never know that they lived and that they died and how either one happened, I feel incredibly hurt and sad that human beings anywhere feel that way.
I think it’s ironic that people with Aspergers, who tend to be open about who they are because it doesn’t occur to them to be anything other than real, are so often accused of not being able to know who they are and not being able to feel and not being able to act like “normal” human beings. It’s hurtful, of course, because this kind of mistaken belief is so opposite to who I am and I dislike feeling invisible. Not to mention that I have a strong sense of justice so it’s taken a lot of work on myself and with myself to help me calm down and not fight every single person in the world who is clueless about who I am.
When it comes to my gender identity, though, it is doubly difficult to deal with because the people who believe these things sometimes have the power to stop transgender people from doing what they know they need to do to be happy.
See, in many states–North Carolina being one of them–a transgender person can’t just go to the doctor to get a prescription for hormones. Instead, you have to see a therapist about your gender issues, even if you are not confused and not unhappy about anything in your life except for being born in a body that doesn’t match who you are. That therapist has to evaluate the situation and determine that you have “Gender Identity Disorder” and need to transition in order to be happy. S/he then writes a recommendation letter to the doctor who will be prescribing your hormones and you can go do what you knew you needed to do in the first place.
The problem is that if the therapist thinks your gender issues come from some other psychological “disorder,” s/he can refuse to write a recommendation letter because you don’t meet the criteria for GID. And then you’ve wasted your time and money and are no closer to your goal and are still miserable.
I’m not saying this is happening or going to happen to me. In fact, I don’t think it will. I intend to talk to my gender therapist about it on Friday and make sure to clear up any confusion about it. But the point is, it could happen. Ignorance about what it means to be transgender and what it means to have Aspergers could collide so that those of us who are both on the autism spectrum and on the transgender spectrum can’t get what we need to move forward. And that is wrong.
Aspies who are transgender aren’t transgender because they are confused about what it means to be male and female. In the non-Aspie world, there are women who are more masculine and men who are more feminine. These people don’t transition because they identify as their birth-assigned gender even though they don’t fit gender stereotypes. Some people might transition to male even though they are feminine in personality or female even though they are masculine in personality because they identify as that gender.
It’s the same for me. I am not an uber-masculine guy, whatever the hell that means. I am, in personality, somewhere between my hero Captain Jack Harkness and his best friend Gwen Cooper… but I identify as male and so therefore I am a trans guy. The only difference between me and the neurotypical semi-feminine trans guys in the world is that I happen to have Aspergers.
So in my opinion, having Aspergers or not has nothing to do with your gender identity. I don’t identify as male because I don’t understand what it means to be female or I don’t know that i have a female body or any other reason you can think of that indicates mental illness. I identify as male because I am one.
I am not ashamed either of having Aspergers or being transgender, and I just think it is wrong that the fact that I am both could potentially stop me from being able to get what I need.
If you like what I have to say and want to hear me talk about these issues in person, feel free to contact me via my website or by email.