Recognising sexual identity conflicts post child sexual abuse in an high-functioning autistic brain

I don’t watch much TV… but, lately I’ve been binge watching ‘Glow Up’ on the BBC iPlayer. It’s a ‘Great British Bake Off’ style competition but for make-up artists. The researchers have selected a real range of characters with talent to go for the coveted prize of a contract working in ‘the industry’. Presenter Stacey Dooley is refreshing, as with the intensity and rawness of her exposure to the grit and grimness of life through her investigative journalism, any ‘drama queen’ moments are quickly nipped in the bud by her dry hard-nosed support style. Yes, refreshing.

As you might imagine, with the generation born in the c.2010s, they have all grown up in a world exposed through social media (YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, etc) from a young age. The characters all have a story to tell, and mostly have all come to having a passion in make-up art as a result of their own personal  struggles, whether it was spending months laid up recovering from an horrific car crash, or whether it was trying to find his identity as a young gay man (this is Ellis).

Ellis said something very interesting about his journey on the episode I watched last night. He happens to be one of the top candidates. He has amassed a following on social media for his creations and says he is self-taught mostly from YouTube videos. I like his humility. He is very talented. However, he is also very in touch with himself. A journey that is important for someone who has suffered trauma or who has ASD (or both!) has to go on, which drew me to his story even more. Ellis described how when he was a younger boy (?teenager) he became obsessed with whether because he was a gay male did that mean he could be transgender (?media pressure). He watched his mother with her make-up and when she was out he would experiment. Through this medium he worked through his inner turmoil creatively through make-up on himself until he felt comfortable with his true identity as a gay male happy with his sexuality, gender and in a male physical form.

How powerful is that!!!!!! Ellis can’t be much older than early 20s right now and that courage, self-belief, maturity and accomplishment is going to give him the biggest confidence and a stable platform for the rest of his life. I’m in awe.

From books I have read over the years sexual identity is a crisis that inflicts autistic people. Add to that child sexual abuse and rape on a girl by many a boy or man. Confusing. Sexuality in today’s society is messy.

I grew up in the 1980-90s, when social media didn’t exist – electronically. Phones didn’t really have cameras of any use, text was just catching on in the late 1990s. Life couldn’t be more different. My mantras drummed into me by my family/extended family or the at boarding school were: (1) no sex before marriage, (2) must have at least 2 children who will then attend good boarding schools, (3) marry a doctor/lawyer/officer/aristocrat, (4) go to nursing/secretarial/finishing school. I think I must have been on the tail end of that era, because I watched it all crumbling as I entered the big world of PR and talent management in London in my 20s.

By the time I had reached my 20s (1) had completely destroyed my hopes of (2) – (4) ever happening and I had been living in survival mode since my pre-school age years. 

I was forced to get my shit together in my 30s and start my life again from scratch. I took my life back to basics and became one of (4) where I was best placed to I hunt down (3) and then achieved (2) without the horror of sending them to boarding schools. In my 40s I am now confronted by my identity crisis 4-fold… the ones I never dealt with for every decade I have been earth-bound. One of these issues is sexuality. I am vulnerable. I can be prayed upon. Thus, the relationships I have with my female friends messes up my head more than with my male friends.

A mother can completely mess up her daughter’s life if she is not nurturing, supportive, loving and kind to her daughter. A mother can cause her daughter to have confusion about sexuality, because her daughter has not learnt how to have a safe and true relationship with a female growing up. The phrase ‘us girls have got to stick together’ cannot apply to a girl who has been rejected, neglected and made to be feel worthless by her mother her whole life. A father who sexually, verbally and physically abuses his daughter then basically just hammers the final nail in the coffin. These were my experiences of course, and messages of warning to myself and any other parents out there reading this post!

It is important to say that because I have ASD I am not able to understand and detect the loaded nature of questions or conversations and then feel confused about the attentions of a new friend I’ve made or even existing ones. I can even over-think a relationship with a new friend in my head if their attentions towards me are seem too caring or kind; or I might unwittingly emulate them or re-create them within my own persona… the way I dress that day, how I write a text or make a comment on an Instagram post, a hand gesture whilst I am talking to someone, etc.

Sadly I have CPTSD and one of the outcomes is that I have a deep distrust of women friends because my mother was narcissistic, emotionally blackmailing, violent and abusive. I feel anxious when I get too close and want to dead the relationship, I feel lonely and rejected when I don’t get connection. Because I have CPTSD I have a deep anxiety about physical touch and motives of male sexual situations. It’s a huge barrier in my marriage to the most caring and loving husband.

I now understand so much more about being a women with ASD, that the brain is so high-functioning, it crosses the neuro-typical brain gender boundaries. I exist as a sort of super-human woman who has both male and female strength of mind, body and presentation. I can feel very feminine wearing either women or mens clothes (or a blend), or even taking a ‘man’s role’ in the workplace. My vulnerability is not the normal cliche of female inability. My vulnerabilities have been human-made through my life experiences. I have to trust my true biological instincts, much like Ellis did at his journey’s end. My emotions are not always my best guide, as is the case with any CPTSD survivor.

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