Transgender and Autism Combined: Once a Spectrum, Twice A Rainbow

Transgender and autism combined: once a spectrum twice a rainbow.

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Transgender and autism combined: once a spectrum twice a rainbow.

Dedicated to the memory of Kayden Clark, recalled in every down pour of rain, every burst of sunshine and embodied in every resulting rainbow.

To be an adult autistic is a challenge, navigating society and applying social rules.

Mimicking gestures, facial expressions and feeling alienation at the best of times.

Then add being transgender, growing up feeling as though you walk across a stage in the middle of an action sequence, missing your cue and failing to recall the words.

You become aware you are further differentiated from your neurotypical classmates by the driving belief your body is wrong for you.

Rebelling against the clothes laid out for you by your parents, feeling further adrift then ever figuring out that other children do not feel as you do, twice over?

You’re a transgender individual and coming out as such can prove just how little support is in place with the government failing consistently to provide services and GP’s failing to take you seriously.

I spoke to three individuals Mabz Beetz, Olivia Astrid and Ali Al Jabbar. I asked them the following questions:

  1. What age were you diagnosed?
  2. have you found services lacking since you left education?
  3. how have you been treated by professionals since you came out as transgender.?
  4. and what you would like people to know about being autistic and trans? What could they do differently?

First we have Olivia Astrid:

1) I was diagnosed at the age of 2 and half years old. Because I was assigned male at birth, this made it easer for my parents to push for a diagnosis of ASC. (Autism spectrum condition)

2) Zero, nougIMG_9885ht, nothing. Before leaving education, I was benefiting from therapies such as Speech and language and Occupational therapy provided by a specialist school that worked with autistic children and adolescence. In my free time, I attended a social group for autistic/aspie teenagers organised by a local charity.

From both places, I met a lot of very close friends that I still keep in touch with today. After my 18 birthday, the LEA spoke about cutting my funding at the school, even though I could have been sported their for an another year. The LEA of course, choose to remove funding. I have very mixed feelings about that to this day. Even though, I do have a lot of difficulties, the NHS is simply not interested in helping me address these though therapy that could help. All the adult autism groups in the area seem to focus on mostly, parent support groups. These environments can be very toxic and hostile towards autistic adults.

3) When I came out as a trans-woman, nothing could prepare me for the amount of ignorance and bigotry expressed by the medical community (Not that, I’m not used to it, by now). I was told that my “gender issues” were not a “concern of their’s” by a so-called doctor. I’ve been contently misgendered and spoken down to.  Because of their vulgar display of transphoiba, I had written a long worded, passionate complaint towards my local practice. I have a gut feeling at more upset will come at the hands of so-called “professionals”.

4) STOP GENDERING AUTISM! Autistic people are not just cis-gendered boys. They are cis-men,  cis-women, cis-girls, trans-men, trans-women. gender-fluid and none-binary people. Plus all the other genders that people are. The medical community is focusing way too much on one gender at one age group. cis-gendered Boys!

I was never born male. I was assigned male and perceived to be male and it was only because of this, that I had the privilege of getting a diagnosis so early in life and access to those services mentioned in the second question. If I was assigned female and was born with a vagina, making me, a cis-gendered women, I would have most likely have struggled to get a diagnosis or the right diagnosis, thus getting the right support would have been harder.

It was unfortunate that we had recently lost Kayden Clark by the hands of the people who should have helped him.

The medical community needs to understand that you can’t simply “fix autism” or gender dysphoria for that matter.  Nor should it be used as barrier to stop the trans-autistic community from getting access to hormonal therapy and surgery that they rightfully entailed to.  

On a final and more personal note, I want everyone to understand that I not a man who dresses in women cloths, neither am I a neurotypical person who wears autism over a neurotypical brain, like a piece of clothing. Trans-women are women and autistic people well… autistic. They can not be removed or taken away from me.  I’m an autistic women. I’m my mind. heart and soul, it is who I am and it was who I was meant to be.

Next we have Mabz Beetz:

1.I was self-diagnosed at 16, but I was officially diagnosed at 19.

2.I haven’t pursued any services since I left education.

3.I am currently pursuing hormone therapy. I have sent a referral to the Porterbrook Clinic in Sheffield, South Yorkshire through a local GP.

4.One of the biggest challenges of being autistic and transgender is that a lot of people find it hard to believe you can be both. They’ll either say that you’re not really transgender, its just you’re autism confusing you; or they’ll say you’re not really IMG_9884autistic, its just that you have a quirky or effeminate personality and traits because you’re transgender.

I would like people to understand that autism and transgender are both integral parts of a persons identity. They fit together to help create an individual. If, for example, I was autistic but I wasn’t transgender, I might not be the person I am today. As for what I would like to see being done differently: I want the public to become more aware of autism in people with different gender identities and help those people get the support they need.

Lastly Ali Al Jabbar:

Firstly, I’d like to send my condolences to the family of Kayden, I am shocked and horrified that this has happened and also that Kayden’s identity has, in some cases not been respected.I was diagnosed as being on the spectrum when I was five. This was in 2002 and I believe information and awareness of Autism was significantly less than now, and I’d still say it’s very poor.

I grew up for 17 years of my life that awkwardness and stubbornness were what it meant to be Autistic, non of the sensory issues were ever explained to me, stimming was never explained to me and my experiences in my last place of education left me scarred mentally.

The so called ‘Autism expert’ bullied and humiliated me there. It was very distressing and it was one of the reasons why I left. At least since leaving education I have been able to grow and learn at my own pace, in my own way.

As I say, the support I Had surrounding my diagnoses was very poor, and minus the fact I wasn’t very sociable , I could “pass ” as NT.

Professionals in general always have a slight look of horror on their face when they know I’m trans, I suspect their scared they’ll say the wrong thing, they seem blissfully ignorant and when confronted with trans issues , especially since I came out as non-binary , don’t have a clue.

Finally I’d like to say this:

I love being Autistic, and I love being Trans, and I wouldn’t change either.

At times being autistic has made it harder to be trans, but since finding support on online groups (A&A) I have learnt ways to be myself and to cope.

I have found the autistic community (at least generally) to be excellent Allies.

However, I fear much more work is needed to make LGBT Folks allies to Autistic people.

LGBT spaces need to learn ways to become more accessible and intersectional anyway, autism acceptance should be included in that.

And if you are trans and Autistic , remember, there’s nothing wrong with you, there’s many things wrong with the world.

Below is the script to a talk Ali did named ‘Lost Daughters’.

We are here today, to remember those who have been lost as a result of transphobia and violence.

We are here to remember friends, siblings, parents and strangers.

To remember those stars who have been taken from our skies, and the lives they lead. To remember the named and the unnamed, the known and the unknown, the listed and the unlisted, and to be visible, for those who cannot.

To remind ourselves why we continue with our activism in the depths of the world’s great despair.

What does it mean to be transgender? Some will say it’s when a persons gender identity does not align with their sex at birth, others will say it can only ever really be defined by the person themselves.. Perhaps then, there is no definitive answer to what it means to be transgender.

Although these rather simple definitions are not enough.

To be transgender is to have your existence debated as if it were a new tax reform.

To be transgender is to be torn between the gender you are perceived as, and the gender that every bone in you body tells you, you are.

To be transgender is to question the worth of your existence to the extent that you neglect your existence. You become depressed, you drink , you smoke, anything to numb the pain, except it never goes.

To be transgender, is to lose friends and family.

To be transgender, is to have a 50% chance of being raped or sexually assaulted in your lifetime.

To be transgender, is to belong to the 40% of homeless youth that identify as LGBTQ.

To be transgender is to belong to a group where 75% experience workplace harassment or bullying, it is to be fetishised by the liberals and scourged by the clergymen. It is a group of people , where 41% will attempt suicide, and many more than once. It is to have a homicide rate of 1 in every 12, and for a person of colour 1 in every 8, it is to die and be buried in a name that was never yours, as the daughter you never were.

And if you do not belong, to those statistics, you may be forced into prostitution and sex work. Or perhaps have medical staff that do not know how they should treat you.

And if you are of the very lucky, friends and family support and except you, IF you are lucky. When I was writing this, I happened to gaze upon the names of those lost this year, among them were names I recognised due to the staggering amount of Trans women of Colour murdered in the U.S this year, which has been correctly dubbed ‘a state of emergency’. Our sisters are screaming for us, and yet we do not hear them.

Daughters are being stolen from their mothers and yet there is a deafening silence in the LGBT community. Some say the Black Lives Matter movement is ‘reverse racism’ , or that they don’t agree with the use of rioting, but I ask you, what then, was Stonewall? And who were Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera? The initiators of the Stonewall riots, the Mothers of The LGBT rights movement, and both Trans women of Colour, and without their actions, it is without doubt in my mind that the LGBT rights movement would not have progressed in the way it has. Which is why I find it a bitter pill to swallow when the LGBT community doesn’t give them, their dues.

It is a shame the community has forgotten a critical part of its history.

The Transgender community, my community, are without doubt, the biggest cause of my frustration and worry, but they are also the biggest source of my joy and the renewal of my compassion.

This is the generation facing backlash as the amount of knowledge on transgender issues increases, an extortionate rate of suicide. But this is the generation  that goes out into the world, barefaced, and declares ‘I am who I am and I don’t care what you do to me, I won’t give up.’

Transgender activists like Jazz Jennings for example. This young lady is incredible. She is 15 years old, 15. And she is already known for her charity work and her openness about growing up as a Transgender girl. A 15 year old that since the age of 6 has had the courage to do what most adults wouldn’t do.

I have here a list of the names of the people that have died this year. When I read over the names, all 9 pages of them, when I got to one in particular, my heart stopped for a second. I read the name of someone who was killed in brazil, and they were found stabbed 15 times and with a fractured skull, the reason i stopped on this name, however, is because this person was also 13 years old. What were you doing at 13?

There have been 19 trans women of colour murdered this year in the U.S alone. When is it going to end? How many people have to die before we choose to use our voices and make a stand against this hate? We may not know them or their families, some, we don’t even know their names.

But do we really need to?

What happens if next year you come here and one of the names you read on those cursed pages is Ali Lacy? What happens when one of you has to be the bearer of bad news to my partner, what will you tell him? What happens if you read the name of your significant other upon the walls? Or the name of your friend, your colleague, one of your siblings, one of your parents, perhaps, even one of your children? What happens then?

What will you do then?

To quote Albert Einstein : “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”

So, what can we do to help trans people?

Firstly, you don’t have to stand with the transgender flag with a megaphone shouting about trans issues. You don’t have to give a speech, you don’t have to read 9 pages encompassing 81 names, i won’t ask that of you.

The most powerful weapons you have, are your tongues and your pens. Talk to your friends about transgender topics, talk to your workplace about transgender inclusion, talk to your schools and in your PTA meetings. Talk , ask, learn.

Make mistakes, but own up to them. If we continue to remain silent out of fear of speaking in an incorrect or hurtful manner, we will never learn what the hurtful or incorrect manner is. We can never grow if we are scared of the sunlight.

Do not leave us in your tears, your candles, and your films. Use them to remember our dead yes, but candles are lit at memorial sites and graves, and like tears are shed at the time to depart.

Trans people and our lives can never be shed like tears. We are living, sentient beings, be of service to the living in memory of the dead.

But the crucial thing you can do to help this movement is to support the children and youth. The holiday season is almost upon us, talk to the children in your family, learn what they like, don’t just assume based of their anatomy.

This will not only help you bond with children, it will improve the child’s self esteem, and even in children who are very stereotypically minded, remind them they can choose the toys or clothes that they want.

What you will plant in that child is a sense of confidence and contentment as well as acceptance of others. And that child can make a difference in this world, just by virtue of the acceptance that will radiate from them.

As humans, we like those who accept us, and this is inclusive of children more so than adults. And this acceptance is infectious, the children of this generation will be the ones to finally confront all forms of prejudice, will yours be amongst them?

Even by your presence here today, you are part of the loom that weaves time. You are making history. This is the first ceremony for Transgender Day of Remembrance at LGBT Links and as far as I’m aware, in Luton also. You are the first out of a quarter of a million people to remember this day.

Some may ask why I choose such an utterly frustrating job to do and why I do it without pay. The answer is simple, I cant sit and watch whilst my friends and siblings in humanity are attacked, bullied and murdered.

The first Transgender Day of Remembrance was held on 20th Nov 1998 after the murder of Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts.

My name is Ali Lacy , I am a gay, trans man, I was born on May 18th 1997, I am a Lutonian by birth. I speak out because In my lifetime I have seen the birth of this sullen day, and by the end of my lifetime i wish to see the end of it.

This is the first speech i have given, and it is my sworn duty for there to be a last. I long for a day when there will be no candles to light, no names to read and no 13 yr olds laying in their graves because they chose to show who they are to the world.

We are here today, to remember those who have been lost as a result of transphobia and violence. We are here to remember friends, siblings, parents and strangers.

To remember those stars who have been taken from our skies, and the lives they lead. To remember the named and the unnamed, the known and the unknown, the listed and the unlisted, and to be visible, for those who cannot.

A. Lacy 16/11/15

   I see young people coming out , I see young people coming out of the closet. They face the world barefaced and valiant.

I end this article with thanks to these three beautiful wonderful individuals.


R.I. P. Kayden Clark .



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