32: Transitioning at 30: Injecting Testosterone and Self-Acceptance

I identify as non-binary trans masculine. For me, this means that I do not identify as the gender I was assigned at birth, and I experience a lot of dysphoria because my mind and heart do not match my body. In order to help treat this disconnect, I have been on testosterone hormone therapy for 4 months now. The journey to beginning this therapy has been a long time coming. 30 years, in fact.

In October, I wrote a guest piece for an LGBTQIA+ platform called The Buckeye Flame.

Here is a preview of it:

When scrolling through TikTok, you might think that all trans and non-binary people figure out their true identity as teenagers. As a 30-year-old non-binary trans masculine adult who started low-dose testosterone (T) therapy 2 months ago, I can assure you that that’s not the case. My journey to starting T has been decades in the making and has been nothing like I imagined.

But there was more than Jojo. My heroes were Disney’s Mulan, Sailor Uranus (AKA Haruka) from Sailor Moon, Alanna from Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” series, and so many more. I didn’t realize it then, but I identified so strongly with those characters in part due to their gender exploration and identities. 

Fast forward a decade, and I am finally transitioning. I’ve come out to family, friends, and coworkers. I have legally changed my name and started using they/them pronouns exclusively. I started to phase out clothes from my wardrobe that make me uncomfortable and bought chest binders.

And eight weeks ago, I started testosterone therapy.

To check out the full piece, please click the link below. As always, thank you reading!

Autistically,

Alex

they/them

13: The Autistics Left Behind

Autistics are left behind when stereotypical Autistic behaviors or traits are used as the sole criteria when evaluating and diagnosing Autistics. While this can be damaging and impactful to boys and men as well, women and non-binary folks have been left behind, misdiagnosed, and written off at an especially alarming rate. This leads to so many issues, many of which I know firsthand as a non-binary Autistic who was only just diagnosed a few years ago at age 27.

It was once thought (and still thought by many) that the number of Autistic boys far outnumber the number of Autistic girls. But with more and more Autistics like myself speaking out as advocates, people are starting to realize just how untrue and damaging this misinformation truly is. While trying to re-educate neurotypicals, some advocates focus on the differences in how girls present versus how boys present. Others look at “internalized” characteristics versus “externalized” characteristics and the differences in how traits manifest which can sometimes vary between genders. I’m not sure what the answer is myself; I only know my own experience.

These are a few of the things I myself have experienced as an AFAB (assigned female at birth) non-binary Autistic diagnosed in my late 20s:

  1. I learned early on to “mask” my Autistic traits, even though I didn’t realize they were generally not viewed as neurotypical things.  I was bullied relentlessly in primary school, sometimes even by teachers. I didn’t know why I was a target, but I knew I was and that trauma forced me to sit back and watch. I latched onto peers and mimicked, painfully masking my instincts and following their examples in an effort to conform and fly under the bullying radar. Even as I begin my 30s, taking off that mask has been an alarmingly difficult process. I still can really only let my mask completely down around my wife, when I am free to verbally stim or rock or flap my hands in joy, use echolalia, let out verbal and physical tics, etc. I can’t describe how freeing that is.
  2. Because of my “skill” at masking, I was more able to “pass” as neurotypical. The stress of doing this long-term leads to extreme stress, trauma, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. I myself have severe C-PTSD, social anxiety, a history of disordered eating, etc. I also live with fibromyaglia and chronic fatigue, and these become more severe when I have to mask for long periods of time. When you can’t understand why you are different and spend so much energy squashing yourself into a box, it takes a devastating mental and physical toll.
  3. Some special interests (which folks sadly tend to pathologize rather than celebrate) may be less obviously “unique” and may therefore go unnoticed. For example, knowing every fact possible about One Direction vs. knowing every fact possible about trains. My own intense interests include Japan, Japanese language, singing, writing, art, and fantasy/sci-fi books. These hobbies have lead me to my college majors and careers; I am fluent in Japanese and spent several years living in Japan. I now write and create art as a form of self-expression and advocacy.

There is so much more to this topic. One main goal of my blog is to hopefully reach people who are like me. Folks who have always been different, but haven’t known why. I want parents to understand more about their kids. I want professionals to challenge the stereotypes they hold and listen to Autistics.

My own diagnosis has been so beneficial, transformative, and life-changing for me. For me, the Ah HAH! moment was when I stumbled across Rudy Simone’s book Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome.

Below are the charts from Simone’s book that changed my life and started me on my search:

Aspergirls for blog.png

Used Simone Women and girls.png

Simone says of her charts:

“These lists are based on my research. While others may be coming to their own similar conclusions, I based these observations of Female AS on interviews with dozens of diagnosed women of all ages and educational backgrounds, from all over the world. These traits were threads that ran throughout their information and stories, tying us all together. As usual, I do not mean to say that all women with AS will possess all of these traits and I do not like putting us in boxes, but there was a need for an easy-to-read reference.”

While I identify as non-binary, anytime I would wonder if I could possibly be Autistic, I would pull up lists of traits and immediately shake my head, seeing the stereotypical and often male-oriented traits listed. It delayed my diagnosis by literal decades.

This chart was the first step toward self-discovery for me. From there, I found Amythest Schaber‘s Youtube channel, started jotting down realizations in a notebook…then one day, started a blog.

More and more, girls, women, non-binary people are coming forward on Youtube, in blogs and articles, and in person to talk about their experiences as Autistic individuals.

It’s about time the world listened.


Additional Info

On my blog, I recommend:

4 Things I Want People to Know About My Autistic Self

Autistic Collaboration Video!

15: Diagnosis & Coming Out

21: Coming Out (Again): Part 2, The Sequel

29: When You Don’t Believe I’m Autistic

30: Seeking Sara, Finding Alex

Other Resources

If you want to hear firsthand from other Autistics, check out the podcast Autism Stories, hosted by my friend Doug at Autism Personal Coach. Here are two episodes I appeared in, but there are so many more:

On late diagnosis (Under Seeking Sara, before Autistically Alex launched):

On gender identity as an Autistic:

Please check out the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN): https://autisticadvocacy.org/

Also be sure to check out: Autistic Women & Non-binary Network (AWN): https://awnnetwork.org/autistic-women-non-binary-network-

Twitter is a great place to find Autistics:

Mikhaela Ackerman, Edge of Playground: @EdgeOfPlayground

Autistic Science Person: @AspieHuman

Amythest (Myth) Schaber, Ask an Autistic @neurowonderful 

There are literally 1000s of us on Twitter!

Hashtags to search on Twitter: #ActuallyAutistic #AskingAutistics #AskingAllAutistics #RedInstead

Resources About Autistic Women and Girls:

Purple Ella’s Youtube video “Differences: Autistic Boys and Girls.”

  • This is a really cool video where she sits down with her Autistic daughter and son, discusses some of the ways that girls and boys Autistic traits tend to vary, and asks them about their experiences.

Purple Ella’s video “Autism: Here Come the Girls”

  • Ella and Ros talk about lots of topics related to Autistic women and girls.

Purple Ella’s video “Autism in Company: Diagnosing Women and Girls”

  • Ella sits down with her friend Ros to discuss how girls, women, (and others!) present differently.

Amythest Schaber’s “Ask an Autistic” Youtube series and tumblr.

  • Amythest is an incredible self-advocate whom I admire a lot. They are educated, sincere, and overall just a wonderful person. Their videos were some of the first things I saw about Autism.

Hannah Riedel’s Youtube channel.

Seventh Voice’s blog post entitled “The Gaslighting of Women & Girls on the Autism Spectrum”

  • An eerie, but accurate depiction of what many girls and woman face.

A great article by Fabienne Cazalis and Adeline Lacroix entitled “The Women Who Don’t Know They’re Autistic”

Excellent article about masking by Francine Russo entitled “The Costs of Camouflaging Autism”

An article by Scientific America entitled “Autism–It’s Different in Girls”

Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome  by Rudy Simone

30: Seeking Sara, Finding Alex

Looking for Seeking Sara? Don’t worry; you’re not lost. Turns out, a big part of the Seeking is discovering far more than I set out to search for.

I began Seeking Sara about a year and a half ago in April of 2018 as a place to verbalize my thoughts and feelings freely in a way that was both therapeutic to me and (hopefully) helpful to someone somewhere out there on the internet.

My blog was a place to literally Seek Sara. Who am I under all of the masking? What happens when I try to stop pretending and playing an uncomfortable role, like trying to walk in shoes ten sizes bigger than my feet?

For the most part, I’ve been extremely honest while I tackled a variety of sensitive topics from disordered eating, sensory overload, anxiety and depression, and chronic illness to interviews with my family and friends about my late diagnosis.

But there’s also been something I’ve been working through in the background, even long before I launched Seeking Sara. For about a decade now, I have been fighting my gender identity. But now, I’m ready to embrace it and come out again on this site—this time as non-binary or genderqueer.

gray background with a blue name tag that reads "Hello my name is Alex

Below is a Q&A to briefly answer some anticipated questions:

Name: Alex (gender-ambiguous)
Gender Identity: Non-binary / Genderqueer
Preferred Pronouns: they/them
Please don’t use: woman, lady, miss, missy, girl, etc.

1) What will happen to Seeking Sara?

My blog will still be here and I will still be writing! Seeking Sara is transitioning to Autistically Alex. Aside from a change in title and design, Autistically Alex will still be run by me, Alex, and the writing will stay the same. (Well, hopefully it will continue to evolve the more I write…) I will discuss more queer LGBTQIA+ topics openly, but will continue other writing like my Sensory Series, eating disorder topics, sensory overload and meltdowns, etc. as well.

2) What’s Non-binary?

Depends who you ask, but for me… I feel wildly, painfully uncomfortable (increasingly so) with being labelled a woman, lady, miss, girl, etc. But I’m also not a trans man and he/him pronouns and man, boy, mister, etc. also don’t feel right. While I am more comfortable expressing and presenting my gender expression (what I wear, how I cut my hair, etc.) toward a more masculine appearance, I’m not a trans man. I’m non-binary, as in “not on the binary” of man and woman in regards to gender identity. I sometimes fluctuate back and forth, and could be considered gender fluid as well.
Scroll down to number 6 below for links to more general information on trans/non-binary/genderqueer stuff.

3) Is that a real thing?

I can confirm that yes, yes it is. I tried for a solid decade to avoid calling myself non-binary. It was ten years of wondering what my gender identity was, wondering if I was a trans man, wondering why neither man or woman felt right, etc. When I found out non-binary is a thing, it instantly clicked, but I still fought against it for years. I’ve had to sort through a lot of internalized transphobia. Trust me. Non-binary is very much a thing and I am it. In fact, many many many cultures have/had more than two binary genders represented in their cultures. The scientific and medical communities also document and affirm the presence of more than two genders. Look it up.

4) Is singular they/them a thing?

Yes, and you use it too! If we describe someone in a mystery novel, the detective might say, “Whoever they are, they sure are smart. They covered their tracks so that no one would suspect them.” As someone who needed to learn to use they/them pronouns for other people, I totally appreciate that this can be super hard to learn to do! Even I still make mistakes. Give yourself time to get used to it.

5) How did you realize you’re non-binary?

A huge part of my journey was realizing how much I identified with a variety of media as a child and teen:

  • Disney’s Mulan, who sings Reflection
    • “Look at me…
      I will never pass for a perfect bride
      Or a perfect daughter
      Can it be I’m not meant to play this part?
      Who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me?
      Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?”
  • Ranma 1/2, a comic book character whose sex changes when splashed with hot or cold water
  • Sailor Uranus, AKA Haruka, who is described as being “both male and female, possessing the strengths of both genders”, and who often presents her gender expression leaning toward the masculine side, though may be genderfluid.
  • Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” book series where Alanna becomes Alan in order to pursue knighthood in a patriarchal world
  • The Takarazuka Revue, a real-life professional troop of elite Japanese performers who play both male and female roles in their elaborate plays and musicals

To be clear, none of these media “made” me non-binary. They were a relief to read or see because I could relate to them. And loving and/or relating to these characters doesn’t automatically make someone non-binary or gender queer!

Another huge part of my self-discovery was realizing how much I dreaded getting dressed each day when I had mostly women’s clothing in my closet, along with accompanying gender dysphoria. Performing “feminine roles” (defined by society) and being called a woman, girl, miss, etc. increasingly causes a sort of nails on a chalk board feeling inside of me.

The last huge component for my journey to self discovery and acceptance was seeing people around me be openly genderfluid and queer. At a conference, a colleague wore a suit and tie and I thought, “…I can do that??” A friend changed their pronouns to they/them and I thought, “I’m so jealous… Wait, I am? Why?” A fellow Autistic blogger was courageous enough to change their site title and pronouns and I thought, “I want that freedom too.” A friend had the courage to change their name and pronouns and I finally spoke the words aloud, “Can I do this?”

Again, these people in my life didn’t influence me to be genderqueer. They gave me the courage to be okay with being myself, and I am forever grateful.

This is a huge part of why I am coming out. Not only is being closeted incredibly painful and draining, I can’t keep silent when others may find self acceptance and courage from me being out and authentically me.

6) Where can I find more info?

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/…/…/Coming-Out-Handbook.pdf
https://www.thetrevorproject.org/trv…/trans-gender-identity/
https://transequality.org/…/understanding-non-binary-people…
https://lgbt.foundation/who-we-help/trans-people/non-binary
https://www.teenvogue.com/story/what-is-non-binary-gender

Many thanks for sticking around with me through this transition.

Autistically,

Alex