I always felt out of phase.
Sometimes I wondered if I was really material. I didn’t feel like I could pass through walls. But I did feel like maybe walls could pass through me.
Other people seemed to drift around me. They were the flock, the swarm, the river. I was a disturbance. A perturbation. A disruption to the flow. They conducted themselves in an orchestrated symphony of movement and interaction and sound. They had all been to rehearsal without me.
In coming to understand myself as autistic, I was able to shift into phase with myself. Click. I still sensed myself as a perturbation. I still sensed the flow of others around my uncanny difference. But rather than feeling the chronic forces of erosion as the waves broke against my body, my understanding allowed me to work with the current.
I could now navigate the material and social world — not necessarily with any more competence, but certainly with more self-awareness and self-acceptance. I could advocate for myself, and others. I could cause the swarm to take notice. Rather than feeling the unwritten order of the world vibrate against my soul like a barbed cage, I now felt in possession of my own voice which I could call out — creating reverberations to show me the shape of things.
Finding Autistic Identity and Culture, finding and meeting and bonding with my people, learning the shape of my brain, the form of my difference, and the name for my divergence… These experiences have been formative, and transformative. I wasn’t changing. I was molting. The old skin that never fit was sloughing off. The self that had been repressed, suppressed, and contorted by the battering of this chaotic world was shaking free, breaking the surface, emerging — becoming.
Becoming has consequences.
The monarch caterpillar molts 5 times before it transforms into a chrysalis. It doesn’t merely molt, slough, and sprout wings. It liquefies. Hardens. Reforms. Then bursts forth. It has to come completely undone before its metamorphosis is complete.
This summer, I liquefied.
PTSD struck. An echo of past traumas. In my molting I shook loose my body’s memory of past terrors. I would have to liquefy, harden, reintegrate my past with my consciousness, reform, and burst forth.
What happened to me during pupation is a tale for another time. We will leave it at — I most certainly almost died.
Unlike a monarch butterfly, I survived by the grace of other’s love and care.
I was nurtured with healing hands, warm embraces, thoughtful witnessing — and books. Books both found, given, and lent supported the hardening of my chrysalis so that I could reintegrate and reform.
I had much to integrate. The Monarch is a butterfly. A bug. An Insect. A metamorphic creature. Its butterflyness is simultaneously dependent on its status as an insect, and a unique expression of bugness. Animalia Euarthropoda Insecta Lepidoptera Nymphalidae Danaus plexippus. It cannot be plexippus without being Danaus. But it cannot be explained entirely by Danaus either. It is more than the sum of its parts. It is more than the result of its metamorphosis.
In order to integrate the tremors of my PTSD, I had to reckon with how the shape of my difference informed my experiences. In particular I had to reckon with how the swarm had found my embodiment a site for causing harm. I had to reckon with the fact that the shape of my difference was not just autism. Or just ADHD. or just OCD. Or even the collection of conditions that contour the shape of my unique expression of Neurodivergence.
It has become more widely understood that the autistic population has a higher concentration of queer identifying people than the general population. More of us are gay, lesbian, pan, bi, ace, aro, poly, and transgender or genderqueer. Some people have posited that these higher rates are deeply connected to our social difference. We are possibly less susceptible to the introjection of societal norms because we are so predisposed to finding social pretense so perplexing.
While many of us will say that our experiences of queerness, particularly of transness, are inseparable from our experiences of being autistic — I am careful not to imply that our autisticness generates our transness. This erases allistic trans experiences. I have also seen people talk about “autigender” to refer to a particularly autistic sense of genderlessness born out of an inherent rejection of gender norms. I worry about this too, as there are many autistic binary trans people. To propose an autisticly generated genderlessness may erase autistic trans women and men.
Nevertheless, I could not complete my pupation without reckoning with and integrating the fact that claiming an accurate gender identity was essential to coming into the fullness of my truth.
I am not going to explain how it is that I know I have no gender. Perhaps that is a post for another time. And perhaps it is simply something for me to know and you to believe. Because I said so. I have no internal concept of gender. Masculine, Feminine – these terms are meaningless to my interiority. I perceive the spectrum of gender in society, I perceive gender identity and expression blossoming forth from my friends. But when I look inside myself to find a sense of belonging to some coordinate within the spectrum, I see only an inky black void. It is beautiful, and it is mine. And I am comfortable with it’s echoing chamber. I am not comfortable when I try to fill that void with some sort of substance.
So I gave it a name. Gendervoid. And it is a lovely void.
And so, with these names for the shape of my embodiment, Autistic, Disabled, and Trans — I have the coordinates of my barycenter. I know who I am. My chrysalis had hardened, my liquefied substance transformed into a butterfly, enfolded within a shell, ready to burst forth.
Not all trans people, particularly nonbinary people, choose a name for themselves. Though I do experience pain when I hear my given name, I do not hate it. I do not feel that my parents named me wrong. They have pet names for me, and these names will always be welcome to my ears. Though I do wish to transition fully into the name I have come to choose for myself, I do not relate to my given name as a deadname. It is simply the name for before the 5th instar. Before the liquefication. This name I have given myself is the name for after. The name for my emerging monarch self.
This blog is not truly anonymous, as nothing on the internet is. All the same, I will not be giving up my given nor my chosen name here. But I will explain a bit of its meaning.
Echos are the auditory manifestation of a pressure wave. This wave emanated from a source, and the echo allows one to perceive both the nature of the source and the shape of the area around the source. Ripples are similarly manifestations of pressure waves. Ripples chart the location of the source, as well as the shape of the surrounding area. All matter is the manifestation of waves traveling through with and by subatomic particles that whiz and buzz about along trajectories that we can only chart through the diffraction, echos, ripples, we generate around them. My name is linked to this meaning of a pressure wave.
Because I want to generate echos. I want to generate waves that show us the shape of the surrounding area. I want to ring out truth and point the way toward emancipated futures for myself, my people, and all those whose oppression is bound up with mine. A mark of my commitment to collective liberation — a sonorous note of solidarity.
I am becoming. I will start by flapping my wings. Click.