Gender and Minority Stress

Minority Stress

And that is what happens when you soak one child in shame and give permission to another to hate.

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette

This is the Story of Victoria

Just like a mourning dove

And there’s no glory in Dysphoria

Victoria

Bad Cop/Bad Cop – Victoria Lyrics
CW: suicide, dysphoria

With fascists criminalizing transgender existence and pushing for government-mandated conversion therapy—forcing youth to have the wrong puberty—the chorus to Victoria has been running through our heads.

As we come to understand depression in the transgender community more accurately, it’s become clear that the major cause is what’s referred to as “minority stress;” that is, “stressors induced by a hostile, homophobic culture, which often results in a lifetime of harassment, maltreatment, discrimination and victimization.” The good news, then, is that as social relations and culture change over time, negative attitudes toward transgender people may be reduced, which will then reduce the stressors which trigger anxiety and depression.

Source: When Worlds Collide – Mental Illness Within the Trans Community — Lionheart

everyone's walking in a straight line
I can't seem to fit in
I won't even try
to be like them
what is it like?
to just be accepted for being yourself
and not having to come out 
of your comfort zone

so here, here I am
we are the people you see on TV
that can't seem to shut up
that never seem pleased
our entire existence is still part of debates
when breathing is political 
then you just don't 
believe in slow progress
and take your faith in own hands 

So here, here I am

don't hold me up

everyone's walking in a straight line
I can't seem to fit in
I won't even try
to be like them
what is it like?
to just be accepted (here I am)

--Queer Line (Non-Binary / LGBTQIA+ song) by Eyemèr

Why are there greater mental health stresses on autistic people from gender-minority groups? To quote from the research paper,

“The increased rates of mental health problems in these minority populations are often a consequence of the stigma and marginalisation attached to living outside mainstream sociocultural norms (Meyer 2003). This stigma can lead to what Meyer (2003) refers to as ‘minority stress’. This stress could come from external adverse events, which among other forms of victimization could include verbal abuse, acts of violence, sexual assault by a known or unknown person, reduced opportunities for employment and medical care, and harassment from persons in positions of authority (Sandfort et al. 2007).”

Source: Ann’s Autism Blog: Autism, Transgender and Avoiding Tragedy

I've got one fatal flaw
I'm a compulsive liar
If I don't love you
I will tell you anything
And even if I love you
I'll always be conniving
I'll always be negotiating with the truth

And I can trace the habit
To when I was eleven
And I thought boys were pretty
And I couldn't tell no one
It opens at a young age
That all-protective closet
Just lock the door
And settle in among the raincoats
The longer you stay in there
The more you'll get distorted
The more contorted all your lies will have to be

Don't wait a moment longer:
Stand up and turn the doorknob
And I'll tell you my secret
If you will tell me yours

--Compulsive Liar by Ezra Furman
Transition from nowhere to nowhere
Here I come again
Nobody cares if you're dying 'til you're dead
Ambition leads nowhere
I dream of going right back to bed
Nobody cares if you're dying 'til you're dead

And if it's not enough to keep the lights on
Let 'em turn the lights off
Broken spirit and a bad cough
Turn 'em off, turn 'em off
And when you’re really at the end of your rope
No, you don’t take the night off
Too many demons to fight off
Cut me off, cut me off
Remember I tried to ask what it means to be a man?
They threw me in the back of a truck and they tied my hands

--Transition from Nowhere to Nowhere by Ezra Furman

“That there are so many forces that would have all of us queers be less free, if not dead, makes us a community by default. Pride is a torch that needs only to be lit because of the darkness, and the darkness is not going away any time soon. I wish I didn’t have this in common with all these various people. But I do.”

Ezra Furman’s Summer of Pride Mix: Listen | Billboard – Billboard

For more songs—and perspective—on dysphoria, minority stress, and queer and neurodivergent mental health, check out our playlist ”Chronic Neurodivergent Depressed Queer Punk: Punk Rock, the Social Model of Disability, and the Dream of the Accepting Community”.

The way you’re playing canary and they’re selling the coal

What Can You Do but Rock ‘n’ Roll by Ezra Furman

Autigender and Neuroqueer: Two Words on the Relationship Between Autism and Gender That Fit Me

These two words helped me figure myself out more. Passing them along.

Autigender

A female coded silhouette and a male coded silhouette stand in the circles of a green infinity symbol reaching toward each other with outstretched arms. Emerging from the infinity symbol are a female symbol and a male symbol that have been fractured, evoking the breaking of constructs and norms
Autigender Flag

Autigender is not explicitly saying that “My gender is autism” – it’s not about saying you are a boy, girl, enby, autism, whatever. It’s about your relationship with your gender.

Specifically, gender is a social construct. The primary deficit of autism includes difficulties interpreting and understanding social constructions. This means that we have a disability that inherently makes understanding gender part of our disability.

Because of this, we can have exceptionally complicated and unique understanding of what gender is, how it affects us, and how we express gender.

Autigender is a word that describes this unique, complicated relationship. So when a person is saying that they are autigender, what they are saying is more or less that their understanding of gender is fundamentally altered by their autism.

Because autigender describes the relationship with gender, an autigender person’s gender can be, well anything. Boy. Girl. Enby. Cis. Trans. Anything. Agender. Gender Nope.

So what about a person who says they are autigender, and that IS their gender? Well, I think this still describes the relationship with their gender – Specifically in this case, their autism affects their understanding to such a degree that they just can’tbe any more descriptive with regards to gender. That leaves the only word they have – autigender.

Candidly Autistic — What exactly is autigender? I’ve seen it used a…
@bethradulski

Reply to @tea_and_bananas Neuroqueer explained #neurodivergent #autismawareness #adhd #80hd #autism #autisticwomen #gender #genderfluid

♬ original sound – Beth Radulski

“Autigender” is a term that some autistic people use to describe their relationship with gender. Specifically, it means that they feel that their autism affects the way they perceive and feel about gender.

Unfortunately, a lot of people interpret this as meaning that people think “autism” is their gender, which results in a lot of rage-filled posts on social media about how your gender cannot be a disability. Because, of course, it can’t. Autism is a neurotype, not a gender.

But this is a complete misunderstanding of the term.

No one who calls themselves “autigender” is going to write “autism” next to the word “gender” on a questionnaire.

The fact is that autism is a neurotype that specifically affects our perceptions and understanding of social conventions, norms, etiquette and mores.

Nor does it affect every autistic person the same way. One person may pick up on social norms easily but may struggle with small talk while another remains oblivious to social norms but can banter easily with strangers in line at the checkout.

In other words, are there really more gay/trans/queer/ace autistic people, or do they just figure it out/come out of the closet more readily than non-autistic people?

We don’t know yet.

What we do know is that there are some people who feel that their ability to think of themselves as a particular gender is affected by their autism. This feeling is shared by enough autistic people that they have dubbed themselves “autigender.”

I don’t call myself autigender, but I get it. Gender is confusing to me, too.

I don’t feel offended by the idea of autigender. But some people really do. They feel it insults other non-binary and genderqueer people, that it mocks and makes light of their relationship with their gender. Autistic community leaders try to remind people that if you don’t like the term, you don’t have to use it.

But if it gives some people a feeling of belonging and helps them describe what must be a very complicated emotional response, then you should support them and let them call it what they want.

If someone feels their autism is affecting how they perceive their gender, let them call themselves autigender.

Considering how many LGBTQA+ autistic folk there are, I think there’s something in that one way or another.

7 Cool Aspects of Autistic Culture » NeuroClastic

Neuroqueer

I originally conceived of neuroqueer as a verb: neuroqueering as the practice of queering (subverting, defying, disrupting, liberating oneself from) neuronormativity and heteronormativity simultaneously. It was an extension of the way queer is used as a verb in Queer Theory; I was expanding the Queer Theory conceptualization of queering to encompass the queering of neurocognitive norms as well as gender norms––and, in the process, I was examining how socially-imposed neuronormativity and socially-imposed heteronormativity were entwined with one another, and how the queering of either of those two forms of normativity entwined with and blended into the queering of the other one.

So what does it mean to neuroqueer, as a verb? What are the various practices that fall within the definition of neuroqueering

Neuroqueer: An Introduction

A neuroqueer individual is any individual whose identity, selfhood, gender performance, and/or neurocognitive style have in some way been shaped by their engagement in practices of neuroqueering, regardless of what gender, sexual orientation, or style of neurocognitive functioning they may have been born with.

Neuroqueer Heresies: Notes on the Neurodiversity Paradigm, Autistic Empowerment, and Postnormal Possibilities

Just as intentionally liberating oneself from the culturally ingrained and enforced performance of heteronormativity is sometimes referred to as queering, intentionally liberating oneself from the culturally ingrained and enforced performance of neuronormativity can be thought of as neuroqueering.

The concept of neuroqueering represents a rich and important intersection of the fields of Neurodiversity Studies and Queer Theory.

Neuroqueer Heresies: Notes on the Neurodiversity Paradigm, Autistic Empowerment, and Postnormal Possibilities

My favorite articulation of Queer Theory’s transcendence of the limitations of essentialist identity politics is a single sentence penned in 1997 by queer theorist David M. Halperin. In his book Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography, Halperin wrote:

“Queer,” in any case, does not designate a class of already objectified pathologies or perversions; rather, it describes a horizon of possibility whose precise extent and heterogeneous scope cannot in principle be delimited in advance.

This post-essentialist articulation of the meaning and potentials of queer also perfectly sums up my conception of the meaning and potentials of neuroqueer. Neuroqueer is not a mere synonym for neurodivergent, or for neurodivergent identity combined with queer identity. Neuroqueer is active subversion of both neuronormativity and heteronormativity. Neuroqueer is intentional noncompliance with the demands of normative performance. Neuroqueer is choosing to actively engage with one’s potentials for neurodivergence and queerness, and the intersections and synergies of those potentials. Neuroqueer is about recognizing the fundamentally entwined nature of cognition, gender, and embodiment, and also about treating cognition, gender, and embodiment as fluid and customizable, and as canvases for ongoing creative experimentation.

Neuroqueer transcends essentialist identity politics not only by treating identity as fluid and customizable, but also by being radically inclusive. Neuroqueering is something anyone can potentially do, and there are infinite possible ways to do it and infinite possible ways to be transformed by it. The term neuroqueer points to a horizon of creative possibility with which anyone can choose to engage.

Neuroqueer Heresies: Notes on the Neurodiversity Paradigm, Autistic Empowerment, and Postnormal Possibilities

Coming to Terms

I didn’t have the vocabulary for what I felt back in Southern Baptist Texas in the 1970s and 80s, but I was uncomfortable with and resistant to gender norms as a kid. They felt: silly, arbitrary, oppressive, confining, unnecessary, counter-productive, irrational. They did not make sense. They did not fit.

A small, shareable anecdote of the ways norms went against my grind, from a lifetime collection:

I didn’t openly express myself in dress much—I was deathly afraid of being noticed and totally unsure about what I felt—but I would splash some color in. I opted for a pink tinted coating on a new pair of eyeglasses once. Kids at school gave me grief, but I liked them and came to wear them as a defiant badge and also a sort of shield. My father had the coating removed.

Several burnouts and a retirement later, I have zero capacity for masking, for attenuating myself to the sensibilities of surrounding bigots and bullies. I enjoy my pink and my flower print Thai fisherman pants and wistfully wishing I could dial my gender to my pansexual, polyamorous, genderpunk, genderqueer mood.

Autigender and neuroqueer are the best fits I’ve found after a lifetime of seeking. Perhaps a term that fits even better will emerge. Perhaps it’s already out there for me to discover. I’ll keep reading other queer autistics as we help each other figure ourselves out.

Studies

Bird, You Can Fly

So the time has come
For your soul to finally belong
Stop the facade
Though the world is not ready for you and I

You're starting your life
From this moment now 
Bird you can fly
Bird you can fly
You're breaking out
Out of your shell today 
You're starting your life
From this moment now 
Bird you can fly
Bird you can fly
You're breaking out
Out of your shell today 

Kid, you'll be fine
You're not a girl
You're not a boy
Nor am I

Kid, you'll be fine
You're not a girl
You're not a boy
Nor am I
Kid, you'll be fine
You're not a girl
You're not a boy
Nor am I

Kid, you'll be fine
You're not a girl
You're not a boy
Nor am I

Kid, you'll be fine
You're not a girl
You're not a boy
Nor am I

--Bird, You Can Fly (Non-Binary Song) by Eyemèr

Transform

If you loved me
I wouldn't have to run away
I wouldn't have to hide away
Through this life

If I could transform
And change the way I am right now
I'd be
Exactly what you want to see

If you loved me
I wouldn't have to be sad
I could smile and you'd be glad
That I'm from this life

If I could transform
I wouldn't have to be afraid
I wouldn't have to be unmade
From this life

I don't want special treatment
I don't want attention
I just want to coexist
On the realm that you play on

Open up your heart
Take me as I am
Love me, hate me, break my heart
Just let me live
Well, if you loved me
I wouldn't have to be sad
I could smile and you'd be glad
That I'm from this life

(If I could) Transform
And I don't have to be afraid
I wouldn't have to be unmade
From this life
Life

Well, if you loved me
I wouldn't have to be sad
I could smile and you'd be glad
That I'm from this life

If I could transform
I wouldn't have to be afraid
I wouldn't have to be unmade
From this life

Life!
Transform!
Give yourself a combo plate (Combo plate)
Transform
Transform, transform, everybody transform

If we could transform
We wouldn't have to be afraid
We wouldn't have to be unmade
From this life

If we could transform
And change the way we are right now
It'd be
Much, much, too easy

Can you take those thoughts away?
Can't you see I'm fine?
Warm your heart, don't you see
It's just the same as mine?

Am I naive?

--Transform by Steam Powered Giraffe

The Malfunction Isn’t Us, It’s all the Clamor and the Fuss

Raise your hand if you’re not from a mold (yeah me)
Varied strings are worth more than gold

Mah-ah-ah-ah-ahl function away
Mah-ah-ah-ah-ahl function away
Malfunction! Malfunction! Malfunction!
...
Their Malfunction isn’t us, it’s all the clamor and the fuss
I’m about to pick you up
get you back up on your feet
you don’t need to worry love
Even if we’re incomplete

Come on baby open up
Pull out the wires and trim the fluff
Be yourself sounds so cliche
But hey let's do it anyway
We’re functioning just fine, we’re alive

At this junction of dysfunction we are arrive


What’s your Malfunction?

Don’t be scare, It don’t matter how you wear your hair

What’s your Malfunction?

Bring it forth perfect’s a bore for what it’s worth


Curvy, skinny, or bizarre

The best shape is who you are


Raise your hand if you’re not from a mold (yeah me)

Varied strings are worth more than gold


Mah-ah-ah-ah-ahl function away
Mah-ah-ah-ah-ahl function away
Malfunction! Malfunction! Malfunction!

Feel the fires as they tickle your face
Watch and learn as they make you feel disgrace
Ones and zeroes left over, left out to haunt

Comb them in and let them want

I want more from this stupid life
Do you want more from this stupid life? (oh yeah)
Ones and zeroes, ones and zeroes, ones and zeroes

Add them up, take them up, show them

I’m functioning just fine I’m alive
At my junction of dysfunction we arrive

What’s their Malfunction?
It’s a start; Can we teach them not to fall apart?
Their Malfunction isn’t us, it’s all the clamor and the fuss

When I say that I love you, dammit Janet, take it as truth
Everything’s a little broken

To be pristine well you must be jokin’

Mah-ah-ah-ah-ahl-function away
Mah-ah-ah-ah-ahl-function away

-- Malfunction
Two people pose in front of a rainbow pride flag with their arms around each other

Left: Lydia Santos (she/they), autistic, epileptic, demigirl lesbian. 26 y/o (if they care)

Right: Maxine Fields (she/her), adhder, bisexual cis woman and Lydia’s girlfriend. 28 y/o (again, if they care)

Art: itsyagerg_zero

I’m about to pick you up
get you back up on your feet
you don’t need to worry love
Even if we’re incomplete

When I say that I love you, dammit Janet, take it as truth