By Riko Ryuki – June 2023

I’m Riko Ryuki, a multiply disabled PDA parent to 3 autistic/PDA kids.

I am agender (they/them pronouns), aromantic and asexual.

I write about PDA and autism, and have a blog and Facebook page where I put most of my writing.

My hobbies include reading, writing, chocolate, gin, cacti and cats.

A glossary of terms has been provided at the bottom of the post.

When you’re born, everyone presumes you’re going to fit the expected norm. They assume you will be endosex, they presume your gender will match the genitalia you have, they assume you will experience attraction, and that the attraction will be to the opposite sex.

So when you grow up and realise those expectations don’t fit, it can be hard to know where you belong.

Being PDA often means we reject the expectations placed upon us. The ones that say we should behave a certain way based on our presumed gender, the ones that assume we will be attracted to certain people, that we will follow certain standard life paths; like getting a job, getting married, buying a house, and having kids.

As a child, I hated the colour pink because it was presumed I should love it. I hated dresses and feminine clothing, not just because for me they were a sensory nightmare, but also because I rejected the assumption that I should wear them, as well as feeling like they weren’t right for me.

As I made my way through puberty things became harder, I was developing a body that didn’t fit what I expected to have. Sensory issues, the unexpected and uncontrollable changes being forced on me, the demands of dealing with it all (particularly periods), and the way society treated me because of what I looked like, all took their toll.

I didn’t understand why I had such a strong negative reaction to these things, I lacked the words and knowledge to make sense of it. Only after I discovered PDA did things start falling into place.

Maybe I rejected these cultural norms because they were demands. People say I should look and act and be a certain way, my PDA tells them to f’off. It makes sense, to a degree. I hear from other PDAers that have felt similar, they challenge the patriarchy because they cannot tolerate the unequal demands of the boxes they’re being shoved into, even when those boxes fit.

It was only part of the picture for me. The more I learnt about myself, the more I came to realise that part of the reason I rejected those society expectations placed on me was because they didn’t fit. Like a frog being told it should be learning to fly, not understanding why it simply couldn’t. Those demands were never meant for me in the first place.

I wasn’t a girl, I wasn’t a boy, so those gendered expectations chafed, not just because they were unfair, but because they presumed things about me that simply weren’t accurate. It was only when I looked at things through the lens of realising I’m non-binary did I see what was going on. I rejected femininity because I wasn’t feminine. I hated dresses and skirts because they didn’t fit who I was (and because sensory wise they were awful).

Finding out I am asexual and aromantic helped slot the last missing cards into the deck. Dating, crushes, and love had always seemed ridiculous to me, not something I wanted any part of. I never dreamt about finding ‘the one’ or of getting married, sex was purely a fun and sensual activity, on par with eating chocolate or watching a thunderstorm pass by. I did it because I liked it, and the people I chose were chosen not because I had some emotional interest in, but rather because of their personality or availability.

When I realised I had never, and would never feel sexual or romantic attraction to anyone, the weight of expectation fell away. I finally had a reason to be single, and happy with that. I wasn’t missing anything by choosing not to engage with the relationship games others played. I wasn’t damaged because I couldn’t feel what everybody else seemed to feel. And it wasn’t bad that I was happy not to be like others. Feeling attraction seems like such a big demand that comes with all kinds of problems; jealousy, cheating, having to share your life with someone. I’m much happier keeping to myself.

The more I realised that, the easier I found life overall. I hadn’t realised how much I had been pushing myself, putting pressure on myself, and how many demands that came with being part of the norm. My PDA was rejecting all that the world was telling me I should be, and I kick myself that I didn’t listen sooner. It’s not necessarily that my PDA recognised these demands weren’t right for me, but rather that it was a happy coincidence that it was avoiding the things which also didn’t matter to me.

Now I’m stuck with demand avoidance that tells me ‘you’re missing out by opting out of the dating scene’ and ‘maybe you do want those things after all’. PDA doesn’t respond well to reason, even when I keep reminding it that I’m happier single, that romance isn’t for me (it makes me physically nauseous), and that I don’t need another body to enjoy sex, it hisses that I might be wrong. It pushes me to reconsider, it tries to undermine my choices. It’s ironic how avoiding the demands society sets out for us was the right thing for me way before I even realised it was right, and it frustrates me that now I understand how I feel, it tries to backtrack me the other way.

Many PDAers will no doubt reject gender expectations and stereotypes. I wonder how many of us turn towards the LGBT+ community because it makes more sense that you might be different, that that’s the reason why you buck those expectations of gender and sex, rather than knowing it’s because our brain is going against even what we actually want. And likewise, how many LGBT+ PDAers find themselves swimming with cis straight fishes because our PDA pushes against who we really are.

One of my favourite things about the queer community is the idea that it’s perfectly normal to be in flux, our gender and sexuality can and sometimes does change throughout our lifetime. Being queer means throwing off any and all expectations, rejecting stereotypes that don’t work for us. You can change your name every day and no one will bat an eyelid. You can wear whatever you like and no one will challenge that.

Are you a cis man who likes to wear dresses – cool!

Are you gay and hate fashion – super!

Does your sexuality change depending on the environment you’re in – perfectly fine!

Do you have no clue who you are or wish not to be labelled – we got you!

Queer is casting off the expected and saying “what do you actually want? What fits the real you?” None of that ‘you were born with this body so here’s a list of all the things you can and cannot do, stick to it or else’. Queer is a rainbow of colour where others see only black and white.

Isn’t that the perfect environment for those whose brains reject being told who and what they are.

Someone, somewhere, coined the term neuroqueer for those whose brains work differently to the expected norm. PDA is neuroqueer. PDA shakes off the image people have of how humans work. We don’t think like the rest, and there’s nothing wrong with that, even when it’s hard.

Queer is a label that you choose, it’s optional. It comes with the understanding that people are far too varied and unique to be put into just one of two separate boxes. The world is messy and chaotic and full of wonder, just like the spectrum of autism, just like the spectrum of PDA, and just like the spectrums of all the different genders, sexualities, sexes and romances. Some are like me, outside the boxes. Others fill many boxes. Some flit from one box to another. These boxes are created by our words, our understanding of ourselves and our lives, and most importantly, these boxes can change. PDA throws open the boxes others have made for us, turfing out the contents, so we can find our own places. And what’s more queer than that!

LGBTQIAP+ – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic/agender, Pansexual, and more.

Agender – having no gender or not relating to any genders.

Aromantic – having little to no romantic attraction.

Asexual – having little to no sexual attraction.

Bisexual – being attracted to two or more genders.

Endosex – when your sex characteristics all match.

Gay – being attracted to someone of the same gender.

Intersex – when one or more of your sex characteristics don’t match.

Lesbian – women that are attracted to women.

Neuroqueer – having a neurotype that doesn’t match the expected.

Non-binary – when your gender isn’t solely man or woman.

Pansexual – being attracted to people regardless of their gender.

Queer – being different to the expected in some way, usually in sexual orientation or gender.

Sexual characteristics – the characteristics that make up one’s sex, this includes genitalia, hormone levels and chromosomes.

Trans – when your gender doesn’t match the sexual characteristics you are born with.

Further information

A recording of our Q&A on the topic of supporting LGBTQIAP+ PDA people with guest speakers Riko Ryuki and Bex Kitchen is available to purchase for 30 days via our training hub.

The views and opinions expressed in the blog posts on the PDA Society website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the PDA Society. Whilst we endeavour to ensure the suitability of the content that we share, all the information provided in these blog posts is for general information purposes only. We are also unable to endorse or recommend any third party services that authors may offer. Personal accounts may vary because everyone’s experience is unique.