Last May, Dr. Kathleen Levinstein, a professor of social work at the University of Michigan, wrote a heartbreaking piece about her autistic daughter, a teenaged girl who became convinced that she was really a man trapped inside a woman’s body. With encouragement from transgender activists at the local organization of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the vulnerable young woman took sex-altering hormones and cut off her breasts. Dr. Levinstein now grieves the mutilation of her daughter’s body and the increased psychological confusion her daughter is experiencing as a result of the hormones.
She states, “She has been taken advantage of. Healthy organs were amputated…. It is a crime not just against women, but particularly against disabled women. So many of these young women who are ‘transitioning’ are also autistic.”
Some contemporary studies have made a connection between gender “dysphoria” and autism. A recent article in The Atlantic uses these studies to push the idea that “transitioning” is a healthy, even necessary, option for those on the spectrum who want it. The author asserts that any effort to discourage such “medical care” to those with special needs is callous. In this way, The Atlantic interweaves natural sympathy for the growing autism awareness movement with transgender ideology.
The Atlantic has it backwards. To help and protect individuals on the spectrum, there needs to be greater awareness of transgenderism’s lies and why those on the spectrum could be susceptible to its manipulation. Encouraging sex-change or an alternate gender identity is destructive to individuals with autism or Asperger’s (previously in a separate diagnostic category), only furthering their private pain.
Why would those who are neurobiologically different also come to see themselves as a different biological sex with the rising influence of the transgender movement? Neurologically atypical individuals spend much of their childhood and adolescence quietly struggling with how others misunderstand them and how they understand themselves. It is critical to understand this struggle in order to push back against the encroachment of transgender ideology into the gifted and special needs community.
With boys, the struggle may be outwardly noticeable. With young girls, the struggle is often more hidden (and undiagnosed). I can offer some insight into this struggle through my own childhood experience as an undiagnosed girl with Asperger’s.
As a child, I flapped my hands and engaged in what it called “stimming.” My particular type of stimming involved opening my mouth wide in a self-stimulatory manner. My jaw dropped and my hands shook repetitively while my voice sounded as if it was out-of-breath (I wasn’t struggling for breath at all). Most clinicians in the 1970s and 1980s did not even know what “stimming” was. Autism was not fully on the cultural radar yet and the groundbreaking writings of Hans Asperger had only been recently translated from the original German. I loved stimming and still do. It felt relaxing: a kind of natural, harmless high in the brain that others around me would never know and could not attain. Nonetheless, I learned at a young age to only stimmy in private so as to avoid ridicule.
From a young age, I always knew I was different in some way. Females with Asperger’s often go unrecognized because young girls are better able to “fake it until they make it” in the neurotypical world. They are better at it up to a point. That point is usually adolescence. During adolescence, the stresses of holding all the quirks and idiosyncrasies in check can be too much to bear in the face of increased social expectations.
As a result, Asperger’s girls growing up often prefer the company of boys and generally find it far easier to relate with males. As psychiatrist Martin L. Kutscher writes in The Syndrome Mix, “Many women who have Asperger’s syndrome have described to psychologists and in autobiographies how they sometimes think they have a male rather than a female brain, having a greater understanding and appreciation of the interests, thinking, and humor of boys during their early school years.” Sound familiar? This aspect of their cerebral wiring—the conflict between what they feel, how they perceive the world and how the world perceives them—existed long before the neo-Gnosticism of transgender ideology came into vogue.
Their thinking is often highly literal. Their mothers struggle to understand them and they find it easier to relate to their fathers.
Due to their unusual traits, they are also prime targets for bullying by “mean girls” during adolescence, further alienating them. I can attest to that from personal experience having ended up with a concussion and blood streaming down my face in middle school. These girls are not “boys trapped in a girl’s body.” These are girls who think differently and are often misunderstood by the other young girls around them. They don’t need to be encouraged to become males. Others need to be encouraged to better understand them as unique young women.
Boys on the spectrum face other sets of struggles. Sensory-seeking little boys may like to touch the ruffles, tutus or lace on girls’ clothes for comfort. They often have delayed gross motor skills, making it difficult for them to engage in the contact sports through which boys generally bond. Boys who toe-walk due to problems with their vestibular system may be mocked for “walking like a girl” or “acting girly.” Boys on the spectrum are routinely bullied or rejected by other boys, leading them to question their very identity as boys.
You could explain to parents and teachers that boys touching girls’ clothes need greater sensory input. You could encourage parents to help their children improve gross motor skills through physical therapy or individualized sports such as gymnastics or martial arts. You could have an occupational therapist work with them on their vestibular system. You could help them develop the friendships with other boys that they desperately crave, such as by finding parents or groups who have children with shared interests or needs.
Or you could play into false and shallow stereotypes of the sexes and tell parents that their child is really a “girl trapped in a boy’s body.” Sadly, you can see this is already happening just by perusing internet forums for moms of children with Asperger’s. Some mothers of Aspies now refer to their sons as “male-assigned” rather than boys.
These parents do not need to be told to accept that their child is really a “male trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body.” They need to be further educated on special needs and taught ways to relate to their quirky and gifted son or daughter with Asperger’s.
A new campaign has sprung up on social media with the hashtag #AutisticTransPride. A movement telling young people on the spectrum that the identity issues they will struggle with as they grow-up can be solved through sex change or “gender questioning” is cruel. Surface changes in clothes and pronouns will solve nothing and only exacerbate their suffering. What they need is not biological alteration, but greater acceptance and understanding of their neurobiological differences.
For a pseudo-religious movement to target this vulnerable population of youths for their own ideological ends is nothing less than child abuse. The latest Atlantic piece is just another shot across the bow. If we do not remain vigilant in speaking the truth, young people with special needs will just be the latest victims in the left-wing cultural assault against human biology.
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