A Thinking Person's Guide to Gender and Autism
I'm a fan of The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. I mostly try not to write about people who I don't think you should pay attention to, and I certainly think you should pay attention to them. I think it is the best site for parents of autistic children that I am aware of, and I think most of what they publish is of interest to autistic adults, too. Without exception, I think the editors and affiliate editors are intelligent, informed, kind, and important individuals. Much of what they do, both in terms of reporting and as citizens of the autism community, is essential.
Before continuing, I need to make some overdue apologies. Several of the TPGA editors and affiliates have reached out to me with kindness and I have mostly responded with anger and outrage. I've lashed out at a lot of people wrongly in waging a battle with some personal demons, as recently as yesterday, and I'm sorry for that. I should have been nicer. I will try harder to do better in the future.
Yesterday, I was troubled by this post, which is obviously extremely well-intended. I was bothered because it did something I see happening over and over in the online autism community: it pretended that autistic people are mostly female.
And this is very far from being the case. According to the best and most recent data from the United States Centers for Disease Control, about 1 out of every 252 girls has autism:
And about 1 out of every 54 boys has autism:
As I said when they came out, I think that these numbers are seriously skewed and that many, many girls avoid diagnosis.
But the current ratio is 4.6 boys to 1 girl. And included in the boys are minority populations that are also notoriously under-diagnosed. So even when we get the numbers right, I think it's very likely that we will still have two or three times as many autistic boys as autistic girls. And I don't think it's likely at all that it will ever be close to a 1 to 1 ratio.
So it matters, when doing autism things, that you not only include autistic people, but that some of them be male. And, unlike the IACC so far, that some of them be female. Of course, there should be specialty organizations like the Autism Women's Network, which I am also a fan of, but, otherwise, I think it's important that both genders be represented.
I would guess that the most typical TPGA reader is the mother of an autistic son. So, although most readers are female, the perspective of male autistics is probably most relevant to most of them.
Thus, I wish TPGA had not established an original editorial team which was 100% female and did not currently have a team which is 90% female. I wish there were more male contributors to their book, and to their website. I wish, when Shannon had written this nice post about her son's need for autistic role models, she had linked to this piece or included one male among the list of writers she mentions (she does link to the TPGA Slice of Life series, which included almost as many males as females)
And I wish they had considered the possible message sent to most autistic teenagers when a piece is published about feeling worthless and the editors do not consider the contributions of anyone of their gender "publishable." There are excerpts from an essay included-- it did not occur to anyone to ask a male writer for permission to quote from an existing piece?
Or even just to say "This one is for autistic girls"? (A note to this effect was added later, although not marked as an update)
It's one thing to be rhapsodic about an autistic woman seeing representations of herself on TV. It's another to recognize that one might oneself sometimes be denying autistic boys the same opportunity.