Gabriel Cudia: The Computer Wore a Bow Tie

By Colin McGregor

After reading his first book, this was not at all the kind of person I expected to meet when I met Gabriel Cudia, 20 years old, an accounting clerk known for his competence and his love of numbers.

Cool, serene, smiling, direct in his responses; with his glasses and his neat appearance I thought of Spock from Star Trek or Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. Which goes with its difference, when you think about it.

From the age of 17, Gabriel Cudia, born a girl, wrote a series of essays during difficult times to talk about his experience of being different: he suffers from autism (Asperger’s syndrome), ADHD-I (Developmental Attention and Hyperactivity Disorder with Impulsivity), BPD, (Borderline Personality Disorder) and calls himself “Gender Fluid”. Asperger people in particular are known to be highly intelligent and restrained.

In his work Moi un pas vers ma difference (Me a step towards my difference) published by Éditions TNT, he speaks openly about the years of bullying experienced at school and elsewhere. Years of hard struggle that made him the man he is today.

He also opens up about his suicidal thoughts. He writes:

Between my toxic relationship which turned into a nightmare, the cyberbullying, the numerous knives which went through my back and came out through my heart, the elbows in the ribs when I walked, the throwing of coins at my head on the bus, the comments, the sideways glances, the lunches and regrets under the stairs, the sexual assaults, the nights where I cried myself to sleep, the mutilation and my desire to end it all, I still found time to learn to hate myself more every day.

One evening, a shadow, Death, takes him by the hand, but Gabriel refuses to follow. He thinks of his mother: “I decided to stay alive and accept my suffering so that my mother could keep her smile.”

He finally found balance thanks to the support of a mother who always loved him for who he is. He writes about never letting go, learning to love yourself: “I’m not saying it’s easy to love yourself,” he observes, “but it’s not impossible. It’s a learning experience like any other. With time and discipline, you eventually get there.”

But the person in front of me this Saturday evening at Bistro le Tambour du Ste-Cath has nothing obviously confrontational in his attitude or appearance. It’s his Asperger’s that gives him his logical aspect. So, as it is a facet of Asperger’s that sufferers do not understand abstract ideas, he gave up studying finance at CEGEP to do a DEP in accounting. “I want to work with numbers,” he explains. “I want 1 + 1 to be 2, and I don’t want to figure out what I can do to make 2 become 4 in terms of income.”

He likes his super-logical appearance, like Spock. “In one movie, the captain says to him, ‘you’ll make a very good computer,’ and Spock says ‘thank you,’ that’s me.” Numbers are concrete: “It’s my cup of tea, for me it’s just logical. I don’t have to figure out what I should think, how I should position myself. It’s relaxing.”

Yet his writings are much more emotional than the computer in front of me. “I write a lot out of emotion,” he explains. “I want to send a message of joy, a message of hope for different people, like me who almost ended their days.”

Her favorite color is the rainbow, all the colors at the same time: appropriate for a “gender fluid” person. He underwent two operations to become a man, but he refused phalloplasty, which involves taking a flap of skin from one area of the body to create the phallus (artificial penis).

The problem? “I see myself sometimes as a man, sometimes as a woman.” He retains the freedom to dress as he wants in the morning, depending on how he feels. As he writes in his book, “why shouldn’t I have the right?” When I spoke to him, on the day of his book launch in Montreal, he proudly wore the colors of the gender fluid flag on a purple, blue and white bow tie.

He wants to help those who still suffer from bullying by giving them hope. What would he have said to himself at the age of 10 if he could address himself? “Honestly, I hope I’m just telling the truth. It will be tough, if I found it difficult, I haven’t seen anything yet. But I have to focus on reasons which, despite all that, will give me hope. If one day I no longer believe in myself, I will gravitate towards people who know who I am. They believe in me.”

But it’s his Asperger’s side that often comes out, regardless of the gender that this gender fluid transsexual displays from day to day. “Each expression must be learned differently and sometimes the hard way.” For example, the evening that one of these relations asked him to tire-toi une bûche, (pull yourself a log),” (a colloquial Québécois expression which means to go find a chair), “I went to look in the hearth for a log. You have to explain expressions to me… With Asperger’s, we’re like children who have to be coded. This is because we are not born with the codes of the norm.”

He admits that he fights “every day to accept the person I am.” Yet the number of friends and family members present for his two book launches – one in Mascouche where he comes from, and one in east Montreal – testifies to the fact that Gabriel Cudia has an enviable number of people who love and support him. One of his key messages to his readers: find positive people who believe in you and bring them close.

Gabriel often writes in his book about his passion for the stars. “I love anything that sparkles,” he confides. “I have a passion for lights. My favorite link is for illumi in Laval. I go there every year.”

With his love for the stars and his obvious genius, why didn’t he pursue studies in astronomy? “I like to keep a bit of mystery. I’m afraid that knowing everything will destroy my creativity.”

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