Autistic boys and girls pushed to see themselves as trans
Almost half of the minors who turn to gender identity clinics suffer from autism spectrum disorders, but receive diagnoses of dysphoria and hormone treatments. How trans-propaganda is also invading 'neurodiversity'. Re-medicalizing it

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Christian Wilton-King, author of this article, has worked in the field of special educational needs for almost two decades. Christian firmly believes in inclusive practice for all and is particularly committed to creating a more inclusive world for autistic people.

Christian became concerned that children and young people who “didn't fit in” were being encouraged to see themselves as transgender, and after some of his comments in a private Facebook group were reported to the Education Workforce Committee, he found himself facing a disciplinary commission. Christian received a warning and was subsequently told that he would not be able to continue teaching if he was unable to protect his students without risking being reported or fired for his opinions (see here).

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates and relates to other people and how they experience the world around them“. National Autistic Society, United Kingdom

The Neurodiversity movement has been growing steadily since its inception in the late nineties and aims to change the public perception of autism from a disabling condition (see definition above) neurological variant. A different but valid way of being, which requires societal acceptance and adaptation, rather than treatment and cure. 

I'm a specialist autism teacher with almost twenty years of experience supporting and educating children and adults with special educational needs, so I was intrigued when I discovered the neurodiversity movement. I get along particularly well with my autistic students and friends, perhaps because their atypical, out-of-the-box ways of thinking resonate with my slightly atypical personality. This made it easy for me to support a political movement that pushes for the recognition, understanding and acceptance due to autistic people. I joined and eventually became an administrator for autism education and support groups on Facebook.

It is well documented that autistic people often experience a sensory overload in social situations, faced with the veritable cacophony of personalities, responses and unpredictable behaviors of neurotypical people. As author Steve Silberman says in his 2015 bestseller NeuroTribes:

By autistic standards, the “normal” brain is easily distractible, obsessively social, and suffers from a deficit in attention to detail and routine. This is how people on the autism spectrum experience the neurotypical world as inexorably unpredictable and chaotic, perpetually too noisy and full of people who have little respect for personal space.”

This “too much noise” can cause social anxiety and make it difficult for autistic people to participate in public life. However in recent years Online autistic communities have proliferated, as social media bypasses many of the difficulties of face-to-face socialization. From behind a computer or phone screen, with easy blocking features, anything that causes anxiety can be avoided. Dedicated online spaces have become a haven for autistic people who want to socialize with other like-minded individuals and organize themselves politically.

Christian Wilton-King

The activism of the neurodiversity movement emphasizesimportance of “lived experience” and of being able to be one's “authentic self“.  These principles are also at the heart of the trans rights movement, which took hold around the same time, whose ideological beliefs have been fully and unquestionably accepted by online autistic communities. This may be due in part to the higher prevalence of gender non-conforming autistic, lesbian, gay and bisexual people, which according to a 2016 study is between 15 – 35% (see here).

It is commonly understood that autistic people can have a difficult relationship with language, preferring precise, descriptive words to metaphor which can be confusing when unfamiliar. However, for neurodiversity activists, playing with language and creating neologisms can be a powerful way to reclaim authority and assert their autistic identities in a society that misunderstands them and tries to make them enter a world for which they are not cut out.

The creation of a new language and new codes of behavior are tactics also employed by trans activism to pursue its objectives, including the primacy of identity politics and the right to self-determination. These similarities may be due to the fact that both movements have proliferated in virtual spaces rather than in “real life”.

In the 1950s the developmental psychologist Reuven Feuerstein worked with children with Down syndrome. His innovative cognitive learning techniques allowed children with Down syndrome to make greater educational progress than was believed possible at the time. These educational achievements helped them fit better into mainstream society. However, he went further by stating that families athey should also consider plastic surgery to attenuate the facial features characteristic of Down's children, so that others could “lose prejudices and low expectations about the abilities of children with Down syndrome”. Feuerstein's "active modification approach" criticized parents' "passive acceptance" of their children's genetic, physical or intellectual disabilities and their belief that society should accommodate the differences of people with Down's syndrome.

Here in the UK – and even more so in the US – l'Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is one of the most popular methods used to teach autistic students. Developed from the work of the behaviorist and contemporary of Feuerstein, B.F. Skinner, together with others, the ABA method suppresses natural autistic behavior in favor of 'normal' behavior, and it is the Achilles' heel of the neurodiversity movement – the antithesis of autistic acceptance. Despite recent efforts to make ABA less punitive and more “person-centered” (early techniques involved physical punishment), the question remains of who decides what behavior is “normal” and who should benefit from it. There remains intense opposition to the use of ABA for autistic children and recent efforts have been made to collect testimonies from autistic adults who have in the past been forced to participate in ABA programs that were supposedly designed to 'help' them but instead traumatized them. (see here And here).

The idea that autistic children need to 'be less autistic' to fit into mainstream society is as barbaric as Feuerstein's 'active modification' approach. In my opinion, this demonstrates a peculiar cognitive dissonance within the neurodiversity community. How can neurodiversity activists, for example, lend their support to organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union that tweets, “trans kids are perfect just the way they are” while knowing that “affirmative care” for kids with dysphoria of gender sets them on a medical path of opposite-sex hormones, double mastectomies, genital surgery, hysterectomies and the serious side effects of drugs used off-label, the long-term effects of which are unknown?

Diane Ehrensaft is a clinical and developmental psychologist who works with children with gender dysphoria. You state that all behavior is a form of “gender communication.” In a video posted on Youtube titled 'How to tell if a newborn is transgender' (How to Tell if Babies are Transgender'), explains how he interpreted the signals from a little girl who did not yet speak, who would have 'communicated' that she was actually a child:

“There's a video of [her] as a child ripping barrettes out of her hair and throwing them on the ground sobbing. This is a 'gender message'… Sometimes children, between the ages of one and two, with rudimentary language, will say: “I boy”. So, you have to be careful about this kind of action, like tearing a skirt."

Autistic people they frequently experience hypersensitivity problems, moreover sThey often disappoint, or ignore, the expectations linked to the gender stereotypes of the societies in which they live. They may intensely despise certain sensations or have very strong preferences for certain clothing, regardless of whether they are considered “appropriate” or not. In the world of Ehrensaft it is little wonder that Children with a diagnosis or traits of autism make up almost half of all patients at Tavistock (see here), the UK's largest gender identity clinic, with even higher proportions in others?

I have watched the trans rights and neurodiversity movements become more and more intertwined over the last four or five years; their demands have become so confusing that some autistic activists even refer to themselves as autigender“. 

While the autism community's apparent sympathy towards people who don't conform to rigid gender stereotypes is understandable, there is a growing tendency – some might say puritanical – to exile those who distrust the full acceptance of mantras such as the ubiquitous “ trans are women,” or who simply don't recognize this as a common cause. I've seen woman after woman unceremoniously expelled (and a few men too) from autism support groups for not focusing on the so-called "trans experience," for example by discussing the importance of 'preferred pronouns' and neo-pronouns. By adopting this “zero tolerance” approach towards violators of the new etiquette, many autistic groups appear to prioritize gender identity over autism itself.

Autistic communities newly connected to politics still face many barriers to acceptance and equality. Curiously, some of these barriers are also put up by well-funded trans rights pressure groups, such as Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES), That has strongly suggested in its literature that gender “transition” can also act as a “cure” for autism.

Here lies the serious and unsustainable paradox that eats away at the heart of the neurodiversity movement; on the one hand, a common cause is declared with the trans rights movement, which supports the use of drugs and surgeries to 'affirm' transgender identities and supports the pseudoscientific notion that female brains can reside in male bodies and vice versa ; on the other hand, attempts to find a cure for autism and force autistic people to look and behave like neurotypical people.

It is increasingly clear that the connection between the trans movement and the neurodiversity movement, which perhaps initially seemed similar, benefits the former at the expense of the latter. Autistic women, especially lesbians, are pushed out of their support networks. Autistic children whose behavior does not match gender stereotypes are pathologized and medicalized.

This is a thorn in the side that the neurodiversity movement will need to consider carefully and soon. When a disproportionate number of autistic people – even children – are diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the “treatment” of which can lead to infertility (see here), this is starting to look worryingly like comeback eugenics.

Christian Wilton-King

Original article here . Translation by Maria Celeste

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