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31 March 2024

A neurodivergent TRANSistor

by Anne Macedo

On this trans day of visibility, I wanted to talk a little about my experience figuring out about my own gender identity and my quirkiness.


As you may or may not now, I’m transgender and autistic. The transgender part means that I was born as a boy, but I identify as a girl. The autistic part, well, it’s difficult to explain, but I’ll try my best.

First of all, why do I think that both themes can be linked together?

Well, when you are a cis, neurotypical person, you don’t feel like you have to attach a debugger to your head all the time. You don’t feel like you need to gdb you brain processes to understand them better. You can tell, from all your experiences, that you are a typical human being (and I’m not saying normal here, but typical).

When you are trans and neurodivergent, you live your whole life feeling that there’s something different in how you feel about yourself and what others feel about you, but you can’t really put your finger on it and tell exactly what it is. That’s why I love the debugger analogy so much. It does sometimes feels literally like having a debugger in your head, when for example you need to go through neuropsychological assessment to get a diagnosis.

I like to separate my trans journey in three acts: pre egg-cracking, egg-cracking and post egg-cracking.


I don’t really recall the first time I heard about transness. I know that our collective understanding of transgender people are often stereotyped in comical ways, often in a way to ridicularize us. I faintly remember from childhood the controversy involving football player Ronaldo hooking up with a travesti (a latino transfeminine gender identity that should be taken as much as a political statement as a gender issue). I also remember a South Park’s episode where a teacher does sex reassignment surgery (and of course, it’s as transphobic and racist as it gets). At some point in my life, quite late to be honest, I became aware that trans and non-binary people existed. I also remember playing Undertale and not being able to grasp if the main character is a boy or a girl (which was a great thing because I named my character Anne, more on that later).

I can remember when I started to identify as trans, though. It was in the early days of the pandemic. And oh my, I feel such weird nostalgia for that time, I guess.

Before the lockdown, I would struggle in doing any kind of self-care, big-change, anything involving differences in my body. I was already working in IT, had established my career, but going to the office and to the university was still something that would take away my time to do any kind of reflection about myself and my body. To the point where I would often dissociate and barely think about my body. All I knew was that I was ugly and disgusting. I didn’t feel like a person, I felt like a giant piece of walking meat with social anxiety.

We had this thing at work where, at every Black Friday, men would shave their beards and just leave a mustache (I guess it was related to the prostate cancer awareness month). I was so afraid of changing anything in my body and having people notice. And yet people would notice I was the only one sporting a giant, disgusting beard. I shaved and I felt awful for at least a month before my beard had finally grown back.

I remember I would also rarely wear shorts, even when it was summer, due to what I realized was dysphoria due to body hair. More on that later.

But finally, pandemic hit and I went back to my parents’ home. I became aware, somehow, of non-binary genders. I remember trying, relutanctly, to use FaceApp to see how I would look like as a girl. And that gave me a lot of gender euphoria! That was the first time I was feeling it. The first time I felt beautiful in my life, was due to this possibly data-stealing app.

The second time I had gender euphoria was due to Animal Crossing. One day, I decided to put a skirt in my Animal Crossing character. And I was so happy with it!

Animal Crossing skirt

When I started working at Thoughtworks, I was suddenly presented with a lot of information and a lot of people who were non-binary. There were plenty of guidelines and tools for helping us respect non-binary people in the company, from guidebooks about gender diversity to having pronouns on tools.

I tried to understand if I were a non-binary person myself. Was I?

Well, I did consider myself it, but I think it would require some proper investigation. Some proper debugging.

The same year, I had my neuropsychological assessment, and I finally figured out something I was looking into ever since I was 15 - I am autistic.

At first, it felt like something to hide, and I felt weird talking about my diagnosis with other people, but soon enough I started wearing it like a badge. I am proudly autistic.

I started to see in my life examples of moments where I felt like I didn’t fit the male gender expectations. Expectations that, through the typical lenses, were seen as male.

As I began developing this idea in my brain and wearing more comfortably the neurodiversity/non-binary badge, I started to really play a lot with my gender identity and expression. I first shaved my beard, and it felt awesome (as, thankfully, people wouldn’t even see me change due to the lockdown). I would secretly wear my mom’s clothes when she was away. I remember buying a body shaver hidden from my parents and shaving my body for the first time. I even remember buying a dress, and using it only when my parents were away. I would take a few pictures and then store it back again. Bought some skirts that I would use from time to time, until I had the courage of telling my mom I was non-binary.

Telling my parents was something funny, actually. One day, at a barbecue party, I told my parents I was non-binary. They just didn’t understand, so I told them not to be scared if I showed up with polished nails. However, they seemed to forget about what I told them, so it never felt as comfortable playing with my gender expression around them. I would do so, though, slowly. Nail polishing, wearing skirts (and I remember my father cracking a shy laugh when he saw me in a skirt for the first time, which made me a little sad), wearing lipstick and finally sporting a big hair.

Back then, two YouTubers also came out as trans/non-binary: the non-binary person from Jimquisition, Commander Sterling, and Abigail Thorn from Philosophy Tube. It made me feel so excited, seeing people come out as trans just gave me more and more euphoria.

I started dating a woman and her parents were more inclusive with me than my own parents. I would feel very comfortable there using she/her pronouns, even if I had my beard unshaved or dressed in boy-mode. At Thoughtworks, I would occasionally change my name to use both a masculine, and a feminine name (Isabelle, the name my mom would give me if I were born a girl). I would try different combinations, until I decided to go with Vivi, a short version of my deadname in a more feminine way. It was supposed to be short for Vivien, but when I joined Microsoft I decided to use Vivi Macedo as my preferred name.

At some point, I realized I was a transfeminine (but not a trans woman) person, but then I started slowly identifying as a trans woman.

Then, finally, one night, when a colleague deadnamed me, I decided to do a drastic change: I was changing my name to Anne. This name has a long story with me, and at some point I would think about Anne as an alter ego, a different persona. Maybe a person I would date and get married to at some point. But I finally realized that I was Anne. Anne was me. So I made the announcement on LinkedIn and Instagram, and I talked to my mom about it, then it took me some time but I finally talked to my dad about it. And so, I was Anne, finally.

Next post - pre egg-cracking

I often do an exercise of trying to understand where my transness came from. And I can kind of get a good grasp of it now: female characters I admired, imaginary friends and personas, feminine names that had a nice ring to it, dysphoria, sensitivity, being a brony (a male fan of My Little Pony).

I’ll write about this in the next post, as this one is getting a little big and it seems to make sense to break this stories in more pages.

tags: neurodivergence - transgender