Gender Differences in Asperger’s: Being a Trans Guy and a Female-Socialized Aspie

rainman“Oh no,” I said, thinking immediately of Rain Man or Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. “I don’t have Asperger’s. I’m horrible with math and computer and science stuff.”

I could see how Joey had Asperger’s — and his son Drew, especially. They used to have a business in which they built remote-control planes. I had never met people as smart and as tech savvy — or as obsessive. They would have conversations in which I understood about two words, and Drew was only fourteen. Asperger’s meant math/science super genius with no social skills, right? I was lacking in the latter — but also definitely lacking in the super-genius department.

Joey shook his head. “Do me a favor. Google search ‘females with Asperger’s,’ or ‘Aspie girls.’ I know you don’t identify as female, but you were raised that way.” It’s true. I’m transgender, and I was female assigned at birth.

And so I looked up female Aspies. I felt as though I were reading my own biography, even down to the detail of often not identifying with girls or gender at all. Others even had that difficulty with sitting in the chair. Everything I read described me perfectly. It was eerie. How had I never known this? I’d been sent to several specialists over the years. I’d been diagnosed with ADD, depression, and Borderline Personality Disorder — and yet, no one had ever suggested Asperger’s. When I fit the description so perfectly, how had it gone undetected?

This weekend, I am at Flight Fest with Joey and Drew. It is a gathering of people interested in the building and flying of remote-control airplanes. I am not one of those people. It’s interesting to be surrounded by so many people who are clearly Aspie and obsessed with planes. It makes me feel pretty neurotypical. And yet, I’m not. My obsessive areas of knowledge have been different from the stereotype, as they often are for female-socialized Aspies. I read a great quote once that explained why male-socialized Aspies stand out more.  I’ll paraphrase: An Aspie girl will be obsessed with horses. An Aspie boy will be obsessed with batteries. And for girls, the trouble socializing often goes undetected, because Aspie girls become obsessed with the study of interaction. They overcompensate, which makes sense given the emphasis of social graces for girls.

As far as the super-genius part: no, I have never been interested in how objects or concepts work if they don’t relate back to people. My obsessions have ranged from animals, particularly cats, to Harry Potter, to the singer Morrissey of the 1980s British band The Smiths, to the works of the 19th century Russian author Dostoevsky, to the television show King of the Hill. There have been times in my life that I was pretty much only interested in things I could relate to these very specific topics. Recently, my interests have grown somewhat broader. I like social sciences, psychology, and different genres of music. But the amount of time I spent obsessively researching Morrissey, Drew spends researching planes and other stuff that I don’t understand. I’m still an obsessive, prolific writer — and yet, I can barely do my laundry or remember to feed myself sometimes.

Of course, there are plenty of Aspies who don’t fit the gender stereotypes. My partner was also female socialized, and he is much more mathematical and logical than I am. Some people have suggested a link between Asperger’s and being transgender. I have definitely observed a link in myself and many people I’ve known. How much of this is biology? How much is socialization?

The truth is, I don’t know. All I do know is that, when I looked up “Aspie girls,” it was a huge relief to know I wasn’t alone. I don’t identify as female, but I identified with the stories I read. And now, I’m not as hard on myself for being different. All my life, I’ve been labeled as obsessive, weird, smart (but not “applying myself”), shy, lazy, awkward, gullible, and creepy.

But the truth is, I’m just Aspie. And I wouldn’t want to “cure” that.

Reprinted with permission from the author.  Original can be read on thebodyisnotanapology.com.

About the Author

Photo Credit: Joseph Mudge, joeymudge.com

Photo Credit: Joseph Mudge, joeymudge.com

Elliott DeLine (born 1988) is a writer from Syracuse, NY. His three books, Refuse, I Know Very Well How I Got My Name, and Show Trans are compulsively readable, semi-autobiographical fiction about the misadventures of a transgender young adult with Asperger’s as he struggles with his identity, sexuality, relationships, mental health and more.  His essays, interviews, and excerpts have been featured in publications such as The New York Times, The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard, Original Plumbing Magazine, The Advocate, The Body is Not an Apology and The Huffington Post. Elliott is the founder and former vice president of the non-profit CNY for Solidarity as well as the lead coordinator of Queer Mart, an LGBTQ artist and crafts fair. Elliott is also a visual artist and songwriter. He is setting out on the road with his partner Joey and his partner’s kid Drew, along with their two cats Mittens and Snowflake, and will be living in a motor home full time, starting this September.

11207363_824468147642157_3374496492066936065_n-Find him on the web at elliottdeline.com
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