Autistic Spectrum Digest (Autism) Issue 22, September 2015 - Page 42

It wasn’t until last year, at the age of 24, that everything started making sense to me. I was a college grad, working a minimum-wage, part-time job at a coffee shop. And much like many other times in my life, I just wasn’t getting it somehow. I accidentally burned myself regularly. I couldn’t recall people’s orders and would have to ask them to repeat them two, sometimes three times in a row. I couldn’t count change and froze when someone gave me cash. People would ask me questions about the drinks and food, and I would be clueless. This wasn’t the first time I’d struggled with a job. And yet, I knew I was intelligent. The amount of incompetence I felt was really bothering me. One night after work, I talked to some of my newer friends about it. I expressed that I was afraid I was going to be fired. Not only was I unable to perform “simple” tasks, but I also couldn’t seem to get the other workers to warm up to me. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. One of my friends, Joey — who is now my partner — said, “Well, it’s hard when you’re an Aspie.” I had no idea what he was talking about. He then told me that he had Asperger’s and that several people in our group of friends did. He was surprised I didn’t realize I had it, too. “Oh no,” I said, thinking immediately of Rain Man or Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. “I don’t have Asperger’s. I’m horrible with math and computer and science stuff.” Asperger’s meant math/science super genius with no social skills, right? I was lacking in the latter — but also definitely lacking in the super-genius department. Joey shook his head. “Do me a favor. Google search ‘females with Asperger’s,’ or ‘Aspie girls.’ I know you don’t identify as female, but you were raised that way.” It’s true. I’m transgender, and I was female assigned at birth. And so I looked up female Aspies. I felt as though I were reading my own biography, even down to the detail of often not identifying with girls or gender at all. Others even had that difficulty with sitting in the chair. Everything I read described me perfectly. It was eerie. How had I never known this? I’d been sent to several specialists over the years. I’d been diagnosed with ADD, depression, and Borderline Personality Disorder — and yet, no one had ever suggested Asperger’s. When I fit the description so perfectly, how had it gone undetected? This weekend, I am at Flight Fest with Joey and Drew. It is a gathering of people interested in the building and flying of remote-control airplanes. I am not one of those people. It’s interesting to be surrounded by so many people who are clearly Aspie and obsessed with planes. It makes me feel pretty neurotypical. And yet, I’m not. My obsessive areas of knowledge have been different from the stereotype, as they often are for female-socialized Aspies. I read a great quote once that explained why male-socialized Aspies stand out more. I’ll paraphrase: An Aspie girl will be obsessed with horses. An Aspie boy will be obsessed with batteries. I could see how Joey had Asperger’s — and his son Drew, especially. They used to have a business in which they built remote-control planes. I had never met people as smart and as tech savvy — or as obsessive. They would have conversa tions in which I understood about two words, and Drew was only 42 fourteen..