Masking is when an autistic person tries to act like an allistic person with the intention of fitting in or being allowed in an environment. When done for prolonged periods of time, this can be very harmful and lead to burnout.
On average, autistic women and other marginalized groups may mask more strongly than autistic cis white men. This may be one of the reasons fewer autistic women and people of color are diagnosed. This is almost certainly because of systemic oppressions that increase negative consequences for not masking. Also, people who are oppressed in different ways have additional reasons and pressures for adjusting behavior (like codeswitching, 'managing up' etc) which can make it hard for a person to realize they are masking autistic behavior and needs as opposed to other ones (for more see https://theautisticadvocate.com/autistic-masking/).
The CAT-Q test can be used to measure how much you mask.
Types of Masking
- Forcing oneself to look in other people's eyes
- Actively monitoring body language, facial expressions, and tone
- Holding back/hiding meltdowns and/or shutdowns
- Hiding stims