autism, Favourites, Health & Wellbeing, LGBTQ+, Neurodiversity

Androgyny and Autism

If you know me, the fact that I recently buzzed my hair short is old news. It’s something I had wanted to do for at least two years, but fear has held me back. Fear of what others might think, that I would hate it and would have to suffer the consequences – fear of the unknownness of it all. In the end, the catalyst came from my partner threatening to buzz hers first if I didn’t. (This was my moment, damn it!)

Once I had finally made the decision, there was a peace, an easiness to it. I was actually in awe of how freeing it felt. That’s what everybody who’s done it says, but it’s different to feel it yourself. Honestly, it’s nothing particularly special. These days, it seems like every second queer person – especially women and afab people – are doing it. The built up anxiety melted away, the intrusive thoughts about parental opinions and possible reactions from colleagues dissipated. I felt a tremendous ‘fuck it’ energy that is almost inexplicable.

In spite of that, I actively avoided video chatting my family for almost a month, to postpone that conversation as long as possible. What does that say about me? I’m still navigating what I should and shouldn’t hold onto, learning which perspectives are and aren’t worth my time. Not to be cliched and gooey about it, but I think that’s a journey all of us are on – particularly those who, like myself, fall into the people-pleasing category.

I’ve had some priceless reactions. One of my close friends spied me from afar, and upon recognising me, her eyes went wide – she was the definition of gleeful. “IT LOOKS SO GOOD” were her opening words. Another good friend I surprised on a video chat under the guise of a different topic. He chuckled and made a lame but good-natured joke about my resemblance to Sinead O’Connor. I have had countless positive reactions from colleagues – “It really suits you”; “Don’t you love how it feels?!” These are the things I want to remember.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what any of them think: it matters what I think.

Manic Pixie Dream Cut

Strangely enough, at the end of 2019 I went almost as short – think pixie cut. I had a similar (yet not as intense) fear about this in the lead up to chopping it off. Afterwards, I didn’t like it. It took me a long while to get used to. It didn’t help that I had envisioned dying the longer part red and ended up having to get the cut first and the dye done separately a week or so later.

approx New Years, Dec 2019

My girlfriend at the time did not like it either – but that’s a whole other thing. Once I got used to it, I felt pretty cute about 65-70% of the time, but when it got all flat it was grehh and it was sensory hell to have to flip it out of my eyes all the time.

Contrastingly, as soon as we started buzzing my hair I was excited, committed, and 100% into what I saw in the mirror. Also – a calculated benefit is that all my split ends and frizzy bits get a chance to start anew. I may have been told off a few years ago by a hairdresser who was not stoked at how long it had been since my last cut.

In my defense…

  1. I was growing it out from the aforementioned pixie cut that I only 70% liked on a good day
  2. It had previously been bleached and dyed to oblivion
  3. I was a poor uni student and regular snips were not high on my list of priorities

Autistic Gender Expression

It’s not uncommon for autistic women to appear (or aspire to) present more androgynously. Lots of us don’t commonly wear make-up, some struggle with hygiene, and strongly dislike bras – especially with underwires. We’re more likely to identify as non-binary, genderqueer and have sexualities outside of the (hetero)norm. According to Spectrum News’ article “autism is [three to six times] more common” amongst people who identify outside their birth sex (trans, enby etc).

I love the way this autistic writer puts it:

I do like to seek some sensory experiences, and when my hair is freshly cut short, skin-short in some places, I get to “fuzz” it. It’s a stim for me.  I calm down, fuzzing my hair. I calm down, running my fingers through my hair where it is slightly longer (a few inches), and I pull slightly at the end of each run-through.  I like the gentle pull on my scalp. It’s way more mild than the pull of brushing long hair, and thus soothing…

Gender Presentation – An Autistic Perspective, by The Autistic Wolf

Other Furiously Fun Facts:

  • Some experts estimate that 6 to 25.5 percent of gender-diverse people are autistic.
    [Source: Strang J.F. et al. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry 57, 885-887 (2018) PubMed]
  • Sexuality also appears to be more varied… Only 30 percent of autistic people in a 2018 study identified as heterosexual, compared with 70 percent of neurotypical participants. 
    [Source: George R. and M.A. Stokes Autism Res. 11, 133-141 (2018) PubMed]

Baby Abby

Photos of my child-self indicate I often dressed rather tomboyish, but I didn’t explicitly turn my nose up at girly things either. Growing up, my hair was a trademark shoulder-length cut, except one time aged 8, where I bucked up the courage go super short… and absolutely hated it. The worst part was when a teasing classmate said I looked like Willy Wonka. I was unconsolably forlorn. Don’t worry, I’m *totally* over it now 😂

In my adolescence I went to a uniformed school, so I didn’t really have to consider my clothing choices – at least during the week. I have always naturally gravitated towards what’s comfy, eccentric and sometimes a little bit weird. I hate malls, shopping centres, and anything to do with buying new. Op-shopping (that’s thrifting for the North Americans) has always made up an overwhelming proportion of my wardrobe.

High Femme or Stone Butch?

Courtesy of Mulan, I give you the Femme to Butch Scale. I don’t know what to tell you other than the fact that it’s 100% factual. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure Mulan was part of my lesbian awakening too.

Interestingly, embracing the buzzcut has seen me dressing more feminine. I’m remembering to cycle through my quirky earrings and whipping out the long skirts more. While I might have claimed the arbitrary label of futch – swaying between femme and butch expressions as I please – I now resonate strongly with the butchy femme zone.

Paradisiacally, and somewhat antithetically, I care less and less about the fact that in the summer you can see my hairy legs when I’m wearing anything other than full-length pants. Progress! It’s far too muggy to cover up, and the way it feels in the breeze is actual bliss.

What have your hair-related experiences been? Ever had a cut you absolutely despised? What did you do? If there’s one thing to remember when it all turns to custard…

It’s just hair.


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