“All guys have Aspergers” goes one trope bouncing around the web, noting that lack of sensitivity to others and rigidity are often seen as just part of how men act in the world.
That’s not true, of course, but more than that, there are plenty of women born female who have been diagnosed with Aspergers. Some experts have noted that the low rates of diagnosis of women is less about epidemiology and more about how women are under identified.
My mother was much more frustrated with her challenges than my father because they blocked her from the kind of relationships she desired with other women. She felt that they blocked her from happiness, and she blamed other people, blamed her family, for failing to make her happy.
Women partners of Aspergers men often feel like communicating with their partners requires them to put aside parts of themselves, putting the bouncy, playful and sly bits in storage to surface the rational, patient and stolid behaviours that work in relationship. That can feel like a huge sacrifice, especially along side of doing more work parenting and maintaining familial relationships.
For those women who had a time when cute and sparkling worked for them, the loss is tangible.
I have often spoken about the challenges of transgender emergence, the required second adolescence to develop and master feminine performance in the world. For me, though, I am realizing that my personal challenges are deeper than that, as bubbly and witty bits always fell flat or even were rejected within my Aspergers family.
My own humour had to be tailored to my audience and they were Aspies. It’s not like I had to shift once I got in relationship, rather it is that I never got a chance to develop those bits at all.
It’s not easy to learn those skills at an advanced age, as there is something about being young, slim,pretty and fertile that gives one power and latitude while learning to assert her feminine wiles. Add to that the expectation and habits of dealing with people with Asperger style brains and the challenge can easily seem overwhelming.
“I need to learn how to have non-earnest relationships where I expect myself to do all the work,” I tell people, and they just don’t get why that would ever be hard. The cost is beyond their understanding and therefore beyond their empathy. It is easy to think that if you have succeeded in the battle for self-awareness you have transcended he experience, but the cost of that battle and the limits still imposed are crushing, at least in my experience.
Transgender people fight against the expectations laid on them by those they are relationship with, people who see the gendered assumptions placed on reproductive biology and the services those expectations demand over the seeing and affirming the contents of a transgender heart.
When AS people who have little theory of the minds of others, forcing everything around them into their expectations, are the parents, the contents of other’s hearts are invisible anyway. Hyperfocus demands routine service, even as the barriers between themselves and the world get wider and more profound, leaving them to hold their children hostage to their own pain and alienation for decades.
My bouncy, playful and sly bits had to be rigorously suppressed in order for me to succeed in relationship with my parents. Femmes are the ones who wiggle, goes an old lesbian maxim, but my wiggle was just always the cause of oppression.
Instead, like so many women partners of AS people have found, any cuteness ends up getting squeezed out of them.
I don’t remember the days when I was young and cute, can’t use them as a touchstone. For me, the feminine was always conceptual not practical, always locked inside not embodied.
But just like the elasticity in your skin, once the cute is gone, it’s almost impossible to get back.
And mine, well, mine went before I ever had a chance to own it.