The Invisibility of Being an Autistic Woman

Women finding out they are autistic in adulthood is becoming more and more common. This is not indicative of more women being born autistic - these women were always there. Due to the influence of cultural and social expectations associated with gender, they are essentially invisible. Women who have fallen through the cracks have had to compensate for their communication difficulties. There is an expectation for women to be sociable, attentive to everyone’s needs, and provide emotional labor that they don’t always have the energy or capacity to give. This leads to exhaustion, mental health issues, and feelings of alienation.

This can inadvertently paint a picture of someone who is functioning, making it difficult for their concerns to be taken seriously. If an adult woman is diagnosed as autistic, a common reaction from family and friends is outright denial due to the preconceptions about what autism is. This can potentially lead to feelings of being an impostor and questioning the perception of their own experiences. I’ve also felt this myself.

Living as a woman on the autism spectrum, most of my day-to-day experiences involve maintaining control of my body and my mind. I have difficulties with emotional regulation, executive function, and communication. These things are not visible. Everyday I have to push myself in order to live in a way that is expected of me socially. This is incredibly exhausting.