Patreon members and YouTube channel members had access to this video on January 26, 2022. The video’s public release will be March 9, 2022.
Thumbnail image is of Lyric, a pale skinned nonbinary human, with short green hair and shaved sides (in need of a haircut). They are sitting in an RV with dark wood panel walls. In front of them the words People Need to be Authentic in teal and green text.
Lyric: Hi, my name is Lyric, and I am a late diagnosed, multiply NeuroDivergent adult. So that means I am diagnosed Autistic. I also have an ADHD diagnosis, but for me, that late discovered piece is incredibly important because I did not find out I was Autistic until I was 29 years old. Which if you can imagine… it was quite a shock, to find something out like that, when I was already almost 30.
The ADHD diagnosis didn’t come till I was 33, several years later, but, actually, was a bit less of a shock.
That’s a good question for the NeuroDivergent People in the audience today. Drop me a comment and let me know, if you are multipli-NeuroDivergent, if that second NeuroDivergent discovery was less of a surprise for you.
Every time I talk about Autism and ADHD and NeuroDivergence, I make a point to talk about the fact that Autism and ADHD are both lifelong differences.
That means, even though I did not know I was Autistic for the first 29 years of my life, almost 30 years of my life. Even though I didn’t know, I was ADHD for the first 33 years of my life… I was still Autistic. I was still ADHD.
I still had these different NeuroTypes, and these differences impacted my life, even though I didn’t have vocabulary for the differences to explain what they were, I was still Autistic. I still had ADHD, even before I was diagnosed, and my life and all of the moments in it have been influenced by that NeuroDivergent experience.
Though my presentation and the ways in which I cope and interact with the world is always changing and evolving. I’m always going to be Autistic. I’m always going to be ADHD and that is the filter through what I experienced life and the world around me.
I evaluate NeuroDivergent & Autistic people’s experiences, through the lens of NeuroDiversity.
If you would like to know more, please do stay tuned.
For those of you who are new. I think it is important to give some baseline definitions.
NeuroDiversity is a term that was coined in the late 1990s by Judy Singer, and Judy is an Autistic sociologist.
What Judy argued was that diverse neurological conditions, such as Autism, dyslexia, discalcula, hyperlexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder, and Tourette’s syndrome.
All of which are actually more common in Autistic people, believe it or not, are the result of normal variation in human brain type – or different shades of humanity, I like to say.
NeuroDiversity is important because it stands in direct opposition to the prevailing view that neurological processing differences and neurological diversity is a bad thing.
Neurological diversity is beautiful and it is not something we should be trying to minimize. It is something we should be celebrating.
When we talk about NeuroDiversity, a reasonable estimate that I can find for all NeuroMinorities, NeuroDivergent People, within the global population is currently between 15 and 20%, depending on the source you’re looking at.
However, these estimates are based on diagnostic numbers, for multiple neurotypes: ADHD, Autism, dyslexia, all of the things I listed earlier… but these numbers don’t take undiagnosed NeuroDivergent People, and those who may not have any idea that they are NeuroDivergent, into account.
With Autism, in fact, we have an entire missing generation of Autistic People, many who may never know in their lifetime, that they are Autistic. This missing generation is typically thought of as adults, who are growing up in the 1980s, or earlier, who were not discovered to be NeuroDivergent as children, because, at that time, especially with Autism, for example…
Autism wasn’t even in the DSM: diagnostic statistical manual, that was used to diagnose developmental differences, developmental disabilities, until 1980.
Prior to 1980, we weren’t even listed in the book. We weren’t even in the book. We weren’t identified, medically, and Autism understanding and awareness was very limited, because it wasn’t named.
We had this whole generation of Autistic People, who are then undiscovered or, missed, or hidden away from society – not talked about.
When we did finally add Autism to the DSM in 1980, and even today, we see this problem, that a lot of people still believed that you could grow out of being Autistic. So all of those adults, who were Autistic, who were missed up until 1980, when we finally named Autism as something, we still ignored those adults… because that diagnostic criteria was developed and focused on Autistic Children, very specifically. It’s been a lot of years now, since 1980, and still, not a lot has changed.
Now back to NeuroDiversity. When we use NeuroDiversity to look at NeuroDivergence, and society, and all of the systems in society, what we see is that, currently, many of our systems, that are existing in society, have been set up by the NeuroMajority, or NeuroTypical people, and this is often harmful to those of us whose minds work differently, the NeuroMinority, NeuroDivergent People, because our needs are not taken into consideration when these systems are developed.
Historically NeuroDivergent People have not had much opportunity to give input when these systems in society have been developed. Our needs, aren’t taken into consideration, because we are often pathologized.
We are told that are ways of doing things: thinking, experiencing the world, are wrong, and we’re broken NeuroTypical people, and we should try harder to fit ourselves into NeuroTypical systems, and NeuroTypical expectations, and NeuroTypical lifestyles, that often do not suit us.
Over and over again, we are asked to try harder to flex ourselves into these broken and outdated systems, until we break… instead of flexing the systems, so that we may evolve and find solutions that work well for everyone.
Many of us are damaged from the pressure, and the shame, that society puts on those of us whose minds work differently. Masking and hiding our differences and struggles, and even our joys and our passions, in order to avoid the critical and disapproving gaze of NeuroTypical people around us.
I didn’t know I was Autistic for the first part of my life because NeuroDivergence is an invisible form of diversity, that can be easily overlooked by the untrained eye.
Not knowing this critical piece of information about myself, had a huge impact on me, and I was not in a good place when I found out I was Autistic. Luckily the knowledge that I have gained has changed my life, and helped me to get myself back on track, finally, allowing me to figure out how to live authentically, as a NeuroDivergent Person, and live a more appropriate, NeuroDivergent lifestyle.
Since discovering my NeuroDivergence, over five years ago now, I’ve learned something that sounds simple in hindsight. I wish I wish I could have known all along… and that is that I can only be truly happy and successful, if I am able to be my most authentic self, permitted to exist, and comfortable in my own skin, as I’m actually quite sure is the case for every single person listening to my voice right now.
It is a human need to be accepted as we are, the whole person strengths, weaknesses, and this includes all of our identities.
For me that includes Autistic, ADHDer, NeuroDivergent, nonbinary, trans, queer, disabled.
Hiding parts of who I am was preventing me from moving forward in life, and getting help when I needed it.
In my thirties, I had to teach myself to ask for help, because I learned to mask those weakness, instead of speaking up for my needs.
My, and most, NeuroDivergence is invisible. If I didn’t want you to know that I was NeuroDivergent, you’d never know.
NeuroDivergent masking, or camouflaging, is defined as when a NeuroDivergent Person consciously, or subconsciously, masks or hides, their Divergent traits, in order to blend in or appear NeuroTypical.
Something I, really, think is important that we understand, whenever we’re talking about NeuroDivergent masking and camouflaging is that, this is camouflaging is something that NeuroDivergent People do as a self-defense mechanism.
We do it to keep ourselves safe. We do it because the world around us can be very hostile, and it’s self-defense. It’s not intended to be manipulative or deceptive. If we are masking around you, it often is because we don’t feel safe to drop our guard down, and be our most authentic selves.
Over the years I learned to compensate for, or mask, my struggles and differences, but not all NeuroDivergent People can hide the ways in which they are different, and as someone who knows how painful living in multiple types of closets can be, I know that hiding for physical and emotional safety, can take an emotional toll.
I am an Autistic person. I’m also trans, specifically non-binary, gender fluid. I don’t identify as male or female. I am someone who floats in the in-between. My gender is less clearly defined and neat. It is fluid, and can flux and wave. I am like the tides being pulled by the moon, as my gender flows back and forth inside me.
Nobody can see the swirling and churning inside, unless I choose to express it outwardly, but I can feel the flexing and bending and pulling.
I knew, at the age of four or five, that I wasn’t a girl, but I couldn’t articulate what I knew, and the world told me I was a girl, and I had to get used to that somehow.
I also knew, around the same time, that I was not like other kids, but not knowing I was NeuroDivergent, also meant not having the language to describe that experience either, and falsely believing that I was an inferior, lazy, NeuroTypical child, and then, eventually, a inferior lazy NeuroTypical adult. I held myself to those NeuroTypical standards, even to my own detriment.
I forced myself to fit into their boxes, at the expense of my own mental and physical health.
I held myself to CIS heteronormative standards, often feeling like I was living a lie and pretending to be someone I wasn’t, for the comfort of other people.
I hid for safety, to blend in, and not make waves. I hid to avoid being the target of bullying and harassment, though bullies still managed to find me. That’s what happens when you grow up in a violent, hostile place, where you don’t feel you’re safe, and you are forced into the peripheries of society.
Being invisible was safer and preferable to standing out, so I did my best to be invisible, and it almost killed me.
Eventually, I got to a point where I couldn’t do it anymore. I came to a place where I could no longer maintain the complex social mask that had protected me for most of my life, and when it all fell apart, I found myself in a place of crisis and was diagnosed Autistic at 29.
Then it was time for the real work to begin: the removal of the mask, and the beginning of asking myself what I really wanted, and if my motivations were my own, or for the benefit of other people.
As that NeuroDivergent mask began to fall, so did the math that I had built around my gender, eventually leading me to come out as nonbinary during the summer of 2020.
Gender is a social construct and a socially identity. Someone’s gender is determined by how they feel. An individual can feel more like a man, or more like a woman, they can also feel like both, or neither, or something in between.
If you identify with the gender you are assigned at birth, you are considered cisgender, because the prefixed CIS means same. You are the same gender you were assigned at birth.
If you don’t identify with the gender that you were assigned at birth, you’re considered transgender. This also includes non-binary people, as people aren’t typically assigned nonbinary at birth.
So one might ask, because they’re already been quite a few studies that show connection between being trans and being Autistic and vice versa… “how does being Autistic influence someone’s gender?”
Well being Autistic impacts every part of my experience, and who I am as a person, that includes my experience of gender.
I feel as if being Autistic, I am willing to examine all of these social constructs under a magnifying glass. Being Autistic means I don’t fit neatly into a box. I make my own box. I am the square peg, that cannot be put through the round hole, without damaging the peg. My experience of gender is no different.
Like with everything else, being Autistic has fundamentally shaped how I relate to gender, and since gender is a social construct, and social constructs are one of the things that Autistic people don’t always fit neatly within, there are many people who feel as if being Autistic influences their experience of gender.
In fact, there are even terms that have been coined to describe this experience of your NeuroType influencing your gender:
Autigender and Neurogender.
As defined by AutismWikki: Autigender, or autism gender, is a NeuroGender, which can be understood in the context of being Autistic, and one’s Autism greatly affecting one’s gender, or how one experiences gender.
Autigender is not Autism as a gender, but rather having a gender that is so heavily influenced by Autism, that one’s gender and Autism can not be unlinked. Not all Autistic People will identify with Autigender, only those whose gender is influenced by them being Autistic.
I briefly mentioned NeuroGender within that first definition, and that is defined by Autism Wiki as: when one’s gender is in some way linked to being NeuroDivergent, or their mental illness, or other neurological condition.
It is an umbrella term for any gender related to being NeuroDivergent, but can also be used as an identity on its own, similar to Autigender.
Neurogender is talking about when gender is heavily influenced by being NeuroDivergent, so much so that you can not separate your gender and NeuroDivergency.
I want to restate that this is not saying Autism is a gender. We’re talking about how the Autistic and NeuroDivergent experience impacts someone’s relationship with gender, and their gender identity.
For me, I was assigned female at birth and that’s just what it felt like… this assignment that I had no say in.
The assignment was given to me, and I put it on as part of my mask, as an Autistic Person, playing a part, trying to blend in, and be treated better by people in society. This included masking by dressing and acting “appropriately” for my assigned gender role.
What people don’t see, or understand, about being gender fluid is there is this internal shift that I may or may not choose to express outwardly. So my external presentation doesn’t always match how I’m feeling on the inside.
I live and grew up in what is known as the Bible belt USA. My gender identity and sexuality are invisible differences, just like my Autism, but there are also differences, especially here in the Southern US, that are thought of as bad or undesirable.
I didn’t feel like a girl and I certainly didn’t want to grow up and become a woman, and growing up, I related more with little boys and little girls and I enjoyed the activities that little boys did. I struggled to be around other girls. When I was around other girls I was definitely masking more, especially when I was younger.
I would comply with my assigned labels because I didn’t know there were other options. I conformed because I was also sure nobody would understand what I was going through.
Eventually, because I had the meat suit that people associated with the assignment I had been given, I started to go along with things for a lot of years using the labels of girl, woman, she, her, because it was expected of me, and often just much easier.
After immersing myself in the Autistic Community, I met more people who were like me, in more ways than one.
I started to develop a vocabulary for the gender experiences I’d been struggling to articulate for most of my life. Once again, I found the labels that fit.
I’m someone who values truth. Listening to Autistic voices, listening to Queer voices, learning I’m Autistic, learning I’m non-binary… has allowed me to accept, work with, and compensate for, my differences, and highlighted where I get some of my biggest strengths.
My big aha moment came from experiencing the words of Autistic and Queer adults. Learning to live my best, and most authentic life, in relation to all of my identities, has been instrumental in me getting my mental health back on track.
This is something that I wish would be possible for others like me all over the world. I wish everyone ease in their own skin and their own minds… ease in your life.
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I will see you next Wednesday. Bye!
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