“Fake it ‘till you make it”: Authenticity and wellbeing in late diagnosed autistic women

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The diagnosis of autism spectrum condition (ASC) in women is increasing, prompting research into the gendered experience and presentation of female ASC. To complement this growing body of research, the current study utilised a qualitative approach informed by a feminist disability framework to explore how the intersecting dimensions of difference, gender, and ASC influence autistic women’s subjectivity and wellbeing. Drawing on the experiences of eight late-diagnosed autistic women, thematic analysis highlighted experiences of early marginalisation, challenges of living outside gendered social norms, the psychological and emotional consequences of masking, and the impact of diagnosis on subjectivity, identity, and wellbeing. Participants developed their authenticity and personhood within a performative social context that required masking of the self, a complex process with wide-ranging consequences. Findings also highlight the importance of acceptance, representation, and community for the wellbeing of autistic women. This research challenges the dominant, masculinised construction of ASC. It highlights the need for the ontological status of ASC to be reconceptualised to incorporate diverse experiences of the condition across the gender spectrum. Future research should explore how psychology can facilitate this reconceptualisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
JournalFeminism and Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2022


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