Okay, I really hope I can answer this well, because, not gonna lie, I am rather intimidated by the formality of your questions.
I’ve always felt a huge disconnect between my gender presentation and my autism. Growing up, the only autistic people I knew were boys, and when I finally got old enough to know autistic females existed (mostly through the books my mother got after my diagnosis), I felt very isolated by the types of girls they portrayed. There’s this pervasive stereotype that autistic people dress solely for comfort, that we wear huge, baggy clothing, and have no understanding of trends or styles, and that we often have trouble maintaining personal hygiene.
I never felt any of that. I always had a distinct love of clothing, makeup, and fashion, and while I do experience sensory overload from certain types of clothing, it’s not the sort one expects. I loathe sweatpants and sweatshirts—they’re huge and make me feel disoriented in my body. The sort of ‘comfort first’ mentality perpetuated by portrayals of autism always isolated me. I like high heels. I like skirts. I like investing time and energy in my appearance.
Non-physically, I am also one of those autistic people who gravitates towards language instead of math, though I can understand the attraction of patterns in both. Because language has always been deemed a more ‘female’ pursuit by society, I pass better as allistic, though I feel very isolated from the STEM-oriented stereotypes of autistic people.
It’s always been hard for me because I felt pressured to ‘look’ autistic while really wanting to be what was deemed ‘attractive’ by allistic people. For awhile I actually tried to dress how I thought autistic women should dress, like the things they were ‘supposed’ to like. I tried to like anime. I tried to care about science fiction. But in the end, I’ve realized there’s nothing wrong with me if I like Vogue instead of videogames, if I hate Star Wars and could care less about Sherlock. Forcing myself to fit into a stereotype of autism almost feels worse than trying to pass as allistic.
In some cases, I’ve actually had my appearance and hobbies used against my autism diagnosis. I’ve had people tell me I’m ‘too pretty’ to be autistic—as if they were mutually-exclusive things, ugh—or that I ‘didn’t seem autistic enough’ for my opinion to matter.
Sadly, a lot of the crap I get about ‘not being autistic enough’ comes from inside the autism community. Allistic people seem to think I’m too autistic-presenting to be useful as an allistic; autistic people seem to be suspicious of me because I’m too allistic-presenting to be ‘properly’ autistic.
I guess, at its heart, that’s why I started this blog. Because I want to reassure myself, and other people, that there’s no ‘wrong’ way to be autistic.
As a visibly alternative person who dyes her hair, wears makeup, and loves wearing huge impractical boots on a day-to-day basis, I can really relate to this. There’s something very unpleasant about feeling as though people like you aren’t supposed to look like you, or like the things you like. About knowing that on the rare occasion someone like you is portrayed in the media, it’s unlikely that they’ll share you interests or outlook on life, and no chance whatsoever that they’ll look like you.
This is actually worse now I’ve grown into an adult who regularly goes out drinking with friends (often in venues which play loud music), and is much more interested in the humanities and social sciences than engineering and physics. While I do have some ‘stereotypical’ interests (I read a lot of fantasy fiction), overall I’m not what an autistic woman is assumed to be, and I find it very hard to lose sight of that.
On a slight tangent, I’ve also noticed that people on the spectrum are sometimes treated as blank slates. If we like something mainstream, it’s because we’re trying to fit in. If we like something countercultural or otherwise ‘weird’, it’s because we don’t know any better. The idea that we have our own preferences doesn’t always seem to register with people- or at least, that’s the impression I’ve got from the literature aimed at young autistics which cheerily advises us to ditch our ‘quirky’ interests in favour of ‘normal’ ones, as if it were the easiest choice in the world to make, whilst simultaneously implying that autistic people don’t take up ‘mainstream’ interests of our own accord.
(I also went through the ‘Mould Self To Stereotype’ stage, by the way, although I was quite young at the time, I think in my case it was half a defence mechanism against the anxiety-induced social isolation I was dealing with. “It’s OK that I haven’t been to a house party yet, I don’t want to go to parties anyway” kind of thing.)