I had a conversation only yesterday in which I was told that “I thought that only girls mask their autism”. I think that this is both incorrect and deceptive. Most of us mask our autistic traits to some extent, in some circumstances and I don’t believe that this is specific to either gender.
So, what is masking?
Masking is where a person with autism learns to act in a PNT manner in order to ‘fit in’ with a PNT world. For myself, I have worked in areas which require me to be ‘very socially overt’, I can do this, if I’m ‘playing the role’, but the reality is that whilst I can be a social creature, I favour small groups of people, or even better, just one to one interaction.
Using a personal example, for those of who struggle with making direct eye contact, I find that finding a point on a person’s face and focusing on that point, leads the other person to think that I am making eye contact with them. I can make eye contact, but it’s not comfortable for me for me to hold eye contact with a person (cue an earlier post in which I mentioned not recalling the eye colour of several ex-lovers). If I know you and recall your eye colour, you are very unique. Honestly, it’s not my being disrespectful or inconsiderate, it’s simply not natural for me to stare into someone’s eyes.
As a child, I was taught that manners dictate that I should look at a person when they talk to me. I was in school at a time when an ASD awareness would have followed pretty much only as a direct result of social, communication difficulties, combined with obsessive tendencies coupled with a substantial learning delays. So, I am one of many who fell within the ‘missed generation’. Therefore I was taught things as a course of simply good manners, I also had manners and etiquette drilled into me, although as I like rules, following them seemed normal, at least during childhood.
On a similar fashion, I could pretend to be loud, confident and extrovert. Hell, I’ve run club nights and events, as well as performing stand up comedy amongst other things and these are all within the realm of someone who can deal with people (apparently). The truth is that I love music and I’m happy to entertain, because I can control that, in a world in which I don’t have enough control over the outcome of events or sufficient comprehension of how to interact with people; so ‘holding court’ is another method in which I excel at masking my autism. (Again, I can talk at people, rather than with them!)
Should we mask?
That’s a difficult question and one I wouldn’t wish to dictate how someone should behave. I’ve recently opted to reduce the amount that I mask my autism; in my opinion, I am a person with autism and that autism is part of what makes me unique and, without it, I feel like I’m not letting people see the true person. However, in professional life, it’s necessary to blend in a little and I’ve no doubt that a certain amount of masking within the workplace will always happen. Outside of the workplace, I see little benefit in hiding who I am.
Is it gender specific?
There’s nothing scientific that I’ve read to prove this, nor would my own experiences say so. Again, I remind anyone reading my blog that I do not extend myself as any kind of expert, in anything other than being me; in fact, I am the best person I know at being me.