Autigender and Pride Month Reflection

July 20, 2023
Angie Kujath

June was an exciting month, pairing perfect weather with a month long celebration of our LGBTQ+ friends, family, and for many, ourselves! Which is of course why it’s quite fitting that our very own Autistic Pride Day, June 18th, fell right smack in the middle of the party. And among our Pride celebrants we shine a spotlight on an overlapping notion, Autigender. 

What exactly is Autigender?

First and foremost, Autigender is not a gender per se, but rather a term used to describe the neurodivergent perspective toward gender identity. Not to be confused with one’s sexuality, Autigender helps define a much more nuanced understanding of gender, specific to the individual, which is less likely to fall strictly on the binary of simply male or female. 

As we all know, the Autistic community is not a monolith, which is why we use the term “spectrum” so intentionally. Under this umbrella live a broad range of people with differing talents, struggles, and perceptions. While one person may pick up on social mores with ease, others live unaware of them and work much harder to find their place, or opt never to at all. 

The same sort of diversity applies to the neurodivergent approach toward gender identity. While some fall right in line with their biological gender assigned at birth and fit in with societal expectations as to how that “should” be expressed, many more find these expectations to be illogical and arbitrary, and because of that find it harder to present their authentic selves without ruffling feathers. 

Gender as a Construct

A touchtone of queerness is the understanding that gender is not one-dimensional, and not something for anyone to define except the individual experiencing it. Much of the autistic community shares this position, as evidenced by statistical data. Four times as many neurodivergent humans identify as Asexual or Non-Binary, as compared to the neurotypical general population. 

This linkage works in the reverse direction as well. People who do not identify with their sex assigned at birth are 3-6 times more likely to be autistic. Researchers are still studying these connections and speculating as to why. One prevailing theory is that because people on the spectrum tend to see the world through a framework of logical reason, randomly assigned characteristics of one sex versus the other simply do not make sense to them. A little boy with gentle, nurturing traits who loves the color pink is pushing up against a masculine societal expectation. A boy without autism might see this as a normal variance within his male gender, and ideally as would the world around him. A person with autism might be oblivious to these exceptions to the gender “rules,” and see themself as something much more nebulous than boy or girl, since society has informed him some minutiae of their personality isn’t in keeping with being male. 

Cross-culturally, gender roles are not a constant, and throughout history traits have come and gone as being assigned to one gender over another. An autistic mindset recognizes these gender rules are so fluid and subjective, they simply cannot be based on fact. For many, gender is a set of imaginary rules loosely rooted in biology, but not much else that is definitive.

The only given among those who fall on the spectrum is that gender is a complex, multi-faceted, and deeply personal sense of self, much as it is for the neurotypical population. Fundamentally, Autigender makes room for and lends some explanation to much more diversity within the autistic subset. 

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