My PhD hopes to work with autistic people perceived as women (FPAPs) to develop outcomes that can aid working through their life experiences in a structured, safe manner to create positive counter-narratives to those encountered in the past which often traumatise, marginalise or oppress those subject to them.
Research now shows that autistic people have many different gender identities, but are often still viewed by their friends, family, professionals and society as either men or women. For a long time, autism, as a condition, was understood medically to be a difference that only boys, and later boys and men, experienced. These two constructs of gender and clinical autism enable a gap between them that autistic FPAPs fall into where both their true gender identities and their autistic nature remains unknown to them. This has a devastating effect on an individual’s mental health and personal identity, with significant consequences for those caught in this lost space.
This research will explore the experiences that form how FPAPs feel negatively about themselves and their life experiences. I aim to create outcomes and new knowledge that FPAPs can use to explore personal narratives and meaning making safely and creatively, using their personal digital data to gain perspective on their past, and hope for their future. FPAPs participating in research, and writing about their lives, have described the difference being identified/ diagnosed makes to them. They are more confident, feel validated and gain new knowledge of their past life and personal history knowing what they are, and why they have experienced their difficulties.
The amount and types of digital personal data available in the 21st century allows FPAPs to remember and explore their past and identity in ways that have meaning and relevance to them, whilst honoring their individual communication, information-processing and recall needs.
I hope to enable FPAPs to feel better about themselves and their lives as autistic people embedded in different ways of experiencing. I also aim to provide better understanding of this group to mental health professionals and services so they can better support and identify FPAPs in distress.
This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (UKRI Grant No. EP/S023305/1) and by NIHR MindTech.