In this post by one of our YSJ literature students, Ripley Cook, they explain how lockdown helped them understand their neurodiversity and their gender identity.
For most of my life I can honestly say that I was never comfortable in my own body. I put it down to a lot of different reasons: how men perceived me and the sexism that came with that, basic insecurities, and the bullying I experienced because of my appearance in high school. It never occurred to me that it was more than that, at least not until lockdown.
For those who know me, especially my lecturers, my mental health is never 100%. University has challenged me in ways that I would never have imagined. But it also challenged my perception of myself and forced me, through the new independence, to face certain hard truths.
The first one was that I was autistic, which is honestly one of the most important factors in my gender journey. And that my brain just worked differently: the way I viewed the world around me was separate from how the people around me saw the world. When I was faced with this reality, I had to almost retrace my steps to my childhood, to figure out who I was without the “masking”. Masking within neurodivergency is mimicking behaviour that neurotypical people do – it is very exhausting. So many Autistic people go through this to appear “normal”.
And the first thing I unmasked was my gender.
If you want the exact definition of my gender it would be “agender”. I simply do not feel gender. I do not understand it. The gender rules that exist within society just did not make sense to me, and I did not want to be hindered or defined by them. To me and my autistic brain the rules of society around gender just do not fit into the way I live my life, I do not feel them, and I do not need them. This is because the way I see the world and society is different.
Someone may look at my chest and see boobs = woman but I do not. I can’t control how people perceive of me, but I can control the factual identity of who I am. And in my identity boobs do not equal women.
Being non-binary has made my world harder, thanks to the prejudice out there, but it has also been so liberating. I shaved my hair, I changed my name, I expressed myself online confidently for the first time. Because being non-binary to me is freedom.