Arvind Nandakumar – Autism Feels So Gendered

Curated By Ralph

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Arvind Nandakumar, performing at IWPS 2019 in San Diego, CA.

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2003, Baron-Cohen proposes
the extreme male brain theory of autism. What he is saying
is that for me to be autistic Is to be the most extreme form of a man. My lack of empathy, impulsivity, Inability to stay on topic. If I don't know
how to care for anything else, Then I must be the worst form of a man. Despite having the same symptoms, Psychiatrists will change their diagnosis
based on gender. Autism for a man, Borderline personality for a woman. But tell me this, where does that leave
my genderless body? Tell me something,
what gender is failed empathy? Tell me, what gender is a depressed body? What gender feels empty on the inside? What gender burns a friendship
to the ground for the fifth time? I never know how to say
"I love you" unironically. Instead, I always think, I want to care But my body is telling me
to sleep right now. I want to care, but my brain
does not understand how to read you. If I refuse to identify as male,
am I still autistic? What does it look like
when my body is trying to be free, And does it matter if I'm either
shunned for my mental illness, Or shunned for my lack of gender? You know, I thought about
wearing a dress once, But my autism only knows how to feel safe In polo shirts and dress pants. Does this mean that my condition
cancels out my gender identity? That what I feel is fake,
if the shell outside does not fit? They told me that being autistic
would mean that I would want to break– Follow all the rules. But the happiest I've been
is when I was breaking them all. When I choose to grow out my hair, Because it was never meant to be
just a woman's thing,

When I choose to paint my nails, Because it was never meant
to just be a woman's coat. When I choose to care for my plants By building them a hydroponic system. Because there is no reason,
logic and empathy can't go together, No reason assigned autism at diagnosis
means assigned male at birth. Even if I was born autistic, I can still live with
the gender I choose to be. (cheering and applause)

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