For Transgender Awareness Week, I’m going to share more of my story with you.
Gender dysphoria… much less pleasant than gender euphoria, it is a feeling that I would like to avoid as much as possible.
I can remember the very first time I felt the dysphoric feelings sneaking in. I was about 4 of 5 & had been asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I answered “a cat” – not because I thought this was realistic or possible, but because I could not imagine myself as an adult.
My assignment had been “woman” & it was expected that I would grow into such. This realization hurt. I didn’t want to “become woman” – I wasn’t a girl.
On another occasion, one of my guardians made a joke that if I could kids my elbow, I would turn into a boy.
Later that evening, I sat on the floor in my room alone, crying, after many failed attempts to “kiss my elbow”, realizing the task was impossible.
In middle school, the dysphoria increased exponentially, when I hit puberty and my body changed.
My body, up until that point, had been a fairly neutral vessel, with no obvious giveaways to what parts were hidden under my clothing.
The changes brought on my puberty were traumatic and unwelcomed. The body I lived in no longer felt like my own.
I coped with my pair of “uninvited intruders” at first by hiding them with sports bras, baggy shirts, & ace bandages (not a safe way to bind btw).
Eventually, I began to cope with my complicated gender feelings in unhealthy ways, objectifying my body & it’s parts.
I dated people of any gender, & thought it funny when boys would date me.
Didn’t they see was more like them, on the inside anyway? If only they knew.
I can admit now that I dated some men, because I was jealous of them. I “wanted what they had” but it was out of reach for me. This played out poorly in my relationships. I often felt a lot of resentment for the men I dated.
I wanted to be seen, but nobody could see me.
Then one day I fell for someone who was attracted to people with my body type. I was head over heels for this person, & for the first time in my life, I felt grateful for the body I had been given. I started to dress it up, doing more intensely over the top drag style makeup.
BUT this glow up didn’t feel authentic…
All that makeup, the thick fake eyelashes, brightly colored hair & wigs, had become part of a character that I was playing, putting a costume on for the world.
It was all an act. It wasn’t me. The over the top femininity that I put on had become a shield, protecting me from an unkind world. I had learned to be who I thought people expected me to be, putting my own wants, feelings, & needs aside to make myself more palatable to others.
A few years later I took an office job in a “female dominated” workplace, and my dysphoric feelings returned worse than ever. Working with so many women, made the ways I differed from women more apparent to me. I was starting to dislike the fraud I saw in the mirror.
As the pressure to be someone I wasn’t increased, my mental health decreased. When my mental health got bad, my physical health also began to slip, unable to cope with the pressure and chronic stress. This is part of what led to a mental health assessment and my Autism diagnosis at 29.
Learning you are #Autistic later in life is a bit of a shock.
A lot of us cope with not knowing we are #NeuroDivergent by overcompensating for our struggles & masking our weaknesses, needs, & desires, in order to blend in or to be less of an inconvenience for people around us.
AutisticMasking/NeuroDivergent Masking is when an Autistic/NeuroDivergent Person masks or hides their ND traits, movements, needs, wants, hopes, joys, pains, & desires. It’s a self defense mechanism that some of us use to stand out less when life’s situations are dangerous.
The pressure from the outside world comes at you from all directions, insisting you present a “socially acceptable” version of yourself to the world – a false self. However, this request is contrary to human nature. People need the freedom to be authentic.
The autism diagnosis opened my eyes to the fact that I had been #masking heavily, afraid to be my authentic #Autistic self in many situations. I had become far from the person I once was, trying to be who everyone else needed me to be. In my 30s, I had a lot of unlearning to do.
People need to be accepted as they are, especially in regards to parts of their identity that they can’t/may not want to change change.
My quest for authenticity, & getting back to who I was before the world interfered, started with my NeuroDivergence, as I worked to #TakeTheMaskOff after learning I was #Autistic 5 years ago.
As I began to peel back the layers of my Autistic mask, I started to question many things in my life. A lot of what I did, before learning I was #Autistic, was because I was doing what was expected of me & ignoring my desires (more masking & trying not to make waves).
Many things that I would do, before my Autistic awakening, had been performative, for the benefit of making NeuroTypicals comfortable.
After finding myself, I had a strong urge to obliterate all that was fake in me, to make room for who I felt I was meant to be.
Layer by layer, the Autistic mask came off…… & as the autistic mask fell, the inauthentic parts of myself, in other areas of my life also began to fade away.
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