I am 23, non-binary, pansexual and I have autism, depression, and OCD. I work in a café, and am doing a master’s in sexuality and gender studies. Frogs are my favourite animal.
Content warning: ableism, transphobia, eating disorders
The invalidation of the trans autistic experience is perhaps the most pervasive barrier during my transition. Before I had the language to articulate what it meant to be non-binary, I tried explaining my gender dysphoria to my GP. Whilst she was initially receptive, as I tried to explain how I was neither male or female her conclusion was incredibly invalidating. “Not to dismiss what you’ve said”, she said, “but because you’re autistic, it might just be that you’re confused.” I left feeling both unheard and as if I had wasted her time.
Through my local charity organisation, however, I found a counsellor who first opened my eyes to the possibilities of genderfluidity. At uni, I found other non-binary people who showed me that there is another option. It was the communities and found families I chose that worked to undo the pervasive and damaging ideologies from professionals who used gatekeeping and transmedicalism to dissuade me from transition.
Being read as an autistic postpubescent boy on the cusp of manhood seeped its way into discrimination in other forms of healthcare. Despite displaying many of the symptoms of anorexia and being an outpatient with the NHS eating disorder clinic, the closest diagnosis I got from a psychiatric professional was that I have “eating problems”. He specifically avoided using terminology that would legitimate my eating disorder. When I tried to express the ways it might be gender related, he shot me down immediately. I cannot forget the accusatory way he said to me, “you think by not eating you can avoid growing up and accepting your identity as a man”.
Once again, the intersections between being a trans & autistic person couldn’t be clearer. My experience was trenchantly invalidated because under the cisgender and neurotypical gaze, we are drained of any agency, autonomy or say in who we are.
Thankfully, with the support of my other trans friends and my student loan, I found the means to begin oestrogen and laser hair removal. There were, however, issues with being pushed down a binary transition pathway. My endocrinologist assumed he would be treating me like a trans woman, despite telling him my pronouns were they/them. I had to reiterate multiple times that because I am non-binary, the body I want isn’t a trans woman’s body. This surprised him, but he agreed to start me on a half the typical dosage after some negotiation. I also refused to take T-blockers, and I am now eight months on oestrogen monotherapy! While the effects are slow, I couldn’t be happier with the results, and I am so grateful I didn’t succumb to the expectations of others.
If you are non-binary, don’t let yourself be binarized by others. Especially not those who refuse to see us for who we are. I know many people who feel they have to pretend to be binary trans because they think this is the only acceptable way to access hormones. While being treated with legitimacy and validity is rare in a medical field and legal system that doesn’t recognise us, there are those who will listen. And it couldn’t be more liberating.