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Monday, March 15, 2010

Gender blindness

This is a rather jumbled up post but something that has caught my interest.

opening fiction first person Rahmet

It was something that was gradually brought to my attention, but I noticed that my cousin didn't notice gender easily. Now I said gender not sex, Tikaani recognizes that women have 'sheaths' and men have 'swords'. Sex to him was obvious he has seen women naked in co-ed bath-houses and gods know how many times he have seen me or Maka nude. Gender was a bit more ambiguous for him. Back at home, gender to him, was defined by bending. Male waterbenders were warriors or laborers female waterbenders were healers or midwives. Gender with appearance never really register with him. Women and men work huge heavy parkas not all women wore make up both sexes wore jewelery. So defining gender based on looks didn't quite make sense to him

In Ba Sing Se, it was bit more complicated. Like him, some men had long hair, women earthbenders were laborers and warriors and some men were doctors and even midwifes. Suddenly his whole diagram is put on it's head. What was at least clear enough for him to tell is now a bit blurred. He has called women carrying hammers or tools and short hair despite wearing gowns and having prominent breasts 'sir' and men with trousers but holding children and having long hair as 'ma'am'. After several gentle corrections by me. Tikaani decided to 'fuckitall' and call everyone sir. It gets worse with children since they are naturally androgynous. 

Tikaani's frustration with not telling men from women apart was embarrassing to him. It wasn't because gender was a big deal to him,(I find it kind of altruistically endearing that he doesn't care about binaries)but the shear fact it made him look like a moron. Having people laugh at him and say: "Last time I checked I still have a (pair of) breasts/penis", was very humiliating, he would lower his head say that he was sorry and stim for twenty minutes and then disconnect. Tikaani tries his best to pick out distinctions but society doesn't really help with it. Mostly because people naturally blend the binaries he grew up with (don't get me started with cross-dressers. Those just piss him off. Not because he finds it disgusting but they just confuse him even more and make it more frustrating for him.) and it makes it hard for him to distinguish.

Theoretically, I think this was probably a throwback to the years of face-blindness when he was a child. He threw a nasty meltdown when he was five and half when mom got her hair cut short. He had no idea who mom was and screamed like he was on fire. He figured it out later that day but, since then all of us don't change our appearance that much. Now the ability to not recognize familiar people based on changes on looks, has become the ability not to pick up on gender distinctions right away.

After some work with him though, Tikaani has picked up gender through voice, which I guess plays with the concept of sex (I see sex as physical and gender as social), men have deep voices women have high voices. Thanks to Tikaani's perfect pitch, he knows what a woman sounds like and what a man sounds like. Beards worked so well too since he knows women don't have big bushy beards. Now Tikaani has somewhat managed his gender-blindness. Yet...those cross-dressers do show up again to trip him up and me as  well. 

Why do drag queens look so darn attractive? 

So the question arises, what do autistic people thing of gender? Are some actually gender blind? Do some identify with no gender? Trans? bi? or just play cis? How does gender affect autistic people in general? Are clear with binaries or are they vague to us? 

FTR I don't think gender blindness is an autistic trait. I see it as simply a "Tikaani" trait. Which I used to set the topic's questions up. 

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