Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cassandra and Apollo

ABFH has asked her readers to contribute doggerel to a "Tony Attwood/FAAAS Poetry Slam", which I think is an awesome idea, but I've been fighting writer's block recently, and trying to write poetry (even bad poetry!) after so many years out of practice sounds like too big a challenge.

So, instead, I'll talk about Cassandra and Apollo.

Cassandra, as she appears in the Agamemnon, is a former priestess of Apollo and princess of Troy, captured by Agamemnon in the Trojan War. She has the gift of prophecy, which she demonstrates on arriving at Agamemnon's palace by reciting his family's bloody history.

This amazes the chorus (made up of wise old men of Argos, too old to have accompanied Agamemnon to Troy) so much that they have to ask her how she came by her gift:

You come from a far country and recite
Our ancient annals as though you had been present.

The Lord Apollo bestowed this gift on me.

Was it because he had fallen in love with you?

I was ashamed to speak of this till now.

Did you come, then, to the act of getting child?

At first I consented, and then I cheated him.

Already filled with his gift of prophecy?

Yes, I forewarned my people of their destiny.

Did your divine lover show no displeasure?

Yes, the price I paid was that no one listened to me.

(Dialogue taken from George Thomson's 1938 translation of the Oresteia, reproduced in Classical Mythology: Images and Insights by Stephen L. Harris and Gloria Platzner).

So, Apollo falls in love with Cassandra, and gives her the ability to see the future as part of his courtship attempt. Cassandra, wanting to keep the prescience but not wanting to shed her priestly virginity, rebuffs him, which makes him angry. He curses her, rendering her gift useless and sterile, and her visions a burden --- while still at Troy, she foresees the Greeks' strategy of entering the city in a wooden horse, and warns her people, but they ignore her; and while she's a captive at Argos, she foresees Clytemnestra's murderous intentions toward her husband, Agamemnon, and toward Cassandra herself, but is similarly unable to convince anyone of the danger. Even those elders in the Chorus, who are quoted above listening to the story of how Cassandra became a prophetess, and marveling at her ability to pull their royal family's sordid history out of thin air, end up dismissing her predictions.

With that in mind, let's turn to the treatment of the myth on which Maxine Aston and FAAAS seem to have based their own mythology of Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder:
Apollo fell in love with the mortal Cassandra, but cursed her after some small infringement of his rules. "This attraction of opposites seems to exert a magnetic pull, when - like the God who loved Cassandra - an Apollo man is drawn to a psychic woman who is emotional, irrational, impractical, and often unimpressed with him. He finds her fascinating, frustrating, and unpredictable. Many Apollo men are drawn to such women whom they try and control."

"The woman who rejects the handsome, virtuous, dependable Apollo man usually does so because he lacks qualities that are essential for her, such as depth and intensity, or emotional closeness, or sexual spontaneity ... Apollo men are rejected by women who want a deeper bond, with more intensity and emotional expressiveness, than he can provide.
I really don't see this in the story at all; if anything, it's Apollo who wants more (sexually and emotionally) from Cassandra than she is willing to give!

I also don't see in the Cassandra of legend any of the traits Aston (or her source, Jean Shinoda-Bolen) attributes to her: as a priestess of Apollo, Cassandra would have held many of the same values as her divine suitor --- why else would she have chosen to devote her life to his service?

Still less do I see in Apollo the emotionally distant, hyper-rational being who just can't understand the human need for love and attention. While he is the god of a lot of things associated with intellect and reason --- music, healing and medicine, cities, the sun --- he's also a very demanding, jealous and quick-to-anger sort, like most of the Greek gods.

Examples: He and his sister Artemis killed the fourteen sons and daughters of the Theban queen, Niobe, just because she boasted that in bearing and raising so many children she had outdone Apollo and Artemis's mother; he had Artemis kill a woman, Coronis, whom he had loved and found to be unfaithful; when the satyr Marsyas challenged him to a musical competition and lost, he had Marsyas flayed alive for daring to think himself a better piper.

Apollo is also frequently head over heels in love --- typically with mortal women (and a few men) or nymphs, and often tragically. Besides Cassandra, there's Daphne, who begged her river-god father to turn her into a tree rather than let Apollo touch her; Creusa, a mortal woman who had a son, Ion, by him, whom she abandoned, only to be unable to conceive any other child once she married, and met with skepticism and disgust by her grown son when she finally reunited with him; Hyacinthus, whom Apollo accidentally killed; Rhoio, whose father threw her into the sea when he learned she was pregnant (by guess who); Adonis, the hero also loved by Aphrodite, killed by a wild boar; Cyparissus, who killed himself in Apollo's presence; Clytia, who loved Apollo unrequitedly and was changed into a sunflower; Leucothea, sister of Clytia, whom Apollo visited disguised as her mother, and whose father, learning of the affair from Clytia, ordered her to be buried alive.

Neither of these aspects --- the jealous, angry god who'll kill you for looking at him cross-eyed, or the serially lovesick Romeo whose reckless affairs frequently end in the loved one getting killed --- sounds like the Apollonian man Aston and Bolen describe:
Apollo was the Greek God of detached observation and intellectual elucidation, a personality trait having similarities with the cognitive style of those with alexithymia. In classical myth Apollo is considered the antithesis of Dionysus, the God of emotional expressiveness.

According to Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Jean Shinoda-Bolen, "Individuals who resemble Apollo have difficulties that are related to emotional distance, such as communication problems, and the inability to be intimate ... It is paradoxical that the God of clarity, and the man who can speak so precisely and clearly about an impersonal subject is so sparing of words about feelings and so obscure and difficult to interpret when he does say something about himself ... Rapport with another person is hard for the Apollo man. He prefers to access (or judge) the person from a distance, not knowing that he must "get close up" - be vulnerable and empathic - in order to truly know someone else...
While this is certainly an aspect of Apollo (cf. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy), it's not the side of him I see guiding his actions in the Cassandra story. That Apollo is demanding, needy, desperately in love and furious at Cassandra for withholding it from him.

He might even have Cassandra Affective Deprivation Disorder!

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others

On this week's "Autism Friendly Sunday" post, Gonzo discusses something she calls the "my 2 cents"* phenomenon: everyone knows autism is a Very Bad Thing, and thus the idea that autistic people might want to be left alone to be autistic really sticks in most people's collective craw**.

This notion --- that, since it's self-evident that autistic people have lots of trouble living in the world, it must be that autistic ways of doing things are maladaptive, and thus the best way to help autistic people is to teach them to do things the way non-autistics do --- leads to a lot of obstreperous bickering within the autism community***.

As an example, Gonzo cites this comment on Sarah's post criticizing Athletes Against Autism:
My2Cents said...
...[W]hat you, speaking to [previous commenter] specifically, seem to be forgetting are the children with autism that (sic) can't speak, don't hold eye contact, are unable to function and may never be able to take care of themselves. By just fighting FOR people with autism, it is basically a resignation and acceptance of the condition. "Oh shit, he's autistic, nothing we can do now. Let's just accept it." Yeah, I think I'd rather fight it.
Notice the list of Horrible, Life-Altering Serious Impairments that come with autism. Not holding eye contact? Really?

Even taking its inclusion at face value --- i.e., accepting that presence or absence of eye contact does make a significant difference to a person's quality of life --- the presence of such a minor, superficial detail on such a list would seem to argue far more strongly for a significant role for social biases predisposing autistic people to lives of disability and dependence than anything else.

*What would that be in Euros?

**Yes, Gonzo and I both owe a lot to Twisty Faster in terms of writing style.

***That phrase is really contentious; many autistic bloggers use it to refer to the community of parents, doctors, educators and careworkers who are the experts most frequently consulted on matters of how best to help autistic people. This "autism community" is often contrasted with the "autistic community" of self-advocates. Here, I use the phrase "autism community" to refer to both groups, although this is a fairly nonstandard usage. The commenter I go on to quote, for instance, uses it in the more exclusive way I just described.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dutch Study Finds Autistics Might Be Overrepresented Among Trans People

A recent article on Left Brain/Right Brain summarized this study presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR), which screened children and teens referred to the Amsterdam Gender Identity Clinic between April of 2004 and December of 2007 for autistic features. This screening included "a psychodiagnostic assessment, interviews with the child[ren] or adolescents, interviews with the parents about developmental history and current functioning, and information from the teacher." With youngsters already diagnosed with an ASD, researchers used a Dutch translation of Lorna Wing's Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders, 10th revision (DISCO-10).

The DISCO series of diagnostic interviews, which I hadn't heard of before seeing this article, focus on early developmental history and are conducted between the diagnostician and the potentially autistic person's parent or other caregiver. It is used not so much to diagnose autism as to uncover "the pattern over time of the skills and impairments that underlie the overt behaviour."

In Chapter 28 of the Handbook of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders, which describes and evaluates all the different tools available for diagnosing autism, Catherine Lord and Christina Corsello say:
[T]he first version of the DISCO was developed to assess the pattern of development in individuals with ASDs and their individual needs (Wing et al., 2002). The primary purpose of the DISCO is not to provide a diagnostic classification. Rather, the instrument was designed to obtain information on behaviors relevant to autism for the purpose of assisting clinicians in determining a child's development in different areas as well as his individual needs (Leekam, Libby, Wing, Gould, & Taylor, 2002). It is based on the concept of a spectrum of disorders rather than categorical diagnoses.

The DISCO is an investigator-based interview in which the interviewer asks questions designed to elicit descriptions of behavior and makes coding decisions based on the information provided. ... The DISCO includes items covering behavioral manifestations of the deficits associated with ASDs, including social interaction, communication, imagination, and repetitive activities. In addition, it includes items designed to assess developmental levels in a variety of domains. Many of these items are based on the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales [link] (Sparrow et al., 1984). There is also a section on atypical behaviors that are not specific to autism. These include unusual responses to sensory stimuli, differences in attention and activity level, challenging behaviors, and other psychiatric disorders. Items relating to developmental delay are rated on a 3-point scale, as "delay," "minor delay," or "no problem." An actual age is coded for some of the developmental items. Atypical behaviors receive codes for "current" and "ever" and are rated as "severe," "minor," or "not present."
So, while other tests might be better suited to answer the question "Does this person have autism?" the DISCO seems to be more geared toward answering the question "What does this person's autism look like?"

Anyway, the researchers did a full psychodiagnostic workup on those children and teens who turned up at the clinic without having been evaluated for autism before, and quizzed the parents of those kids who had previously been evaluated in the above-described manner.

They found that 6% of the 233 young people referred to the clinic (14 people or so) had some kind of ASD. This rate --- which the LB/RB blogger point out is about six times the rate at which autism occurs in the general population --- remained consistent regardless of gender-identity outcome: kids who ended up with a diagnosis of full-blown Gender Identity Disorder were no more or less likely to be autistic than the kids diagnosed with GID-NOS or the kids discharged without any diagnosis.

Most interestingly, the people who did end up with dual diagnoses of ASD and GID included both sexes, which, if that finding is replicated in larger studies of autism prevalence among trans or otherwise gender-variant people, could come into conflict with Simon Baron-Cohen's Extreme Male Brain theory of autism, which hypothesizes a direct relationship between fetal testosterone levels, masculinity, and autism. A high proportion of autistic trans men and butch women would thus be in accordance with theory, but not trans women or feminine men.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Why Autistic Pride?

Yesterday was Autistic Pride Day, and as I was pondering what, if anything, I would write about autistic pride, I came across these comments on Gonzo's Autistic Pride Day post:

Norah said...
... I never saw the point of an autistic pride day myself. It would be like having a 'long blond hair pride day' to me or something (although of course technically I'd fail that one since I dye my hair).

kathleen said...
I don't understand the idea of a pride day either...It could just be me...but I find it condescending...and yet another way of categorizing people...instead of just saying people. Don't know if that makes sense. I know I would be horrified if there were a "fat ass" pride day...I am more than my ass! :)
What these commenters are saying does make sense to me --- I feel this sort of neutrality toward --- and sense of being more than --- quite a few categories to which I belong.

My autism is not one of them, though. To me, my autism isn't just one more thing about me --- in one way or another, it touches everything about me.

That's not to say that the above-quoted commenters are any less autistic than I am, though! I think lots of factors go into determining which aspects of our (complex, multifaceted) identities we see as fundamental, and another, only semi-overlapping, set of factors influences which traits we decide to carry over into a sense of collective identity.

It's this idea of collective identity that I think determines whether a person regards a given trait as politically salient. If you are acutely conscious of your minority status --- that you differ in some nontrivial way from all, or most, of the people around you --- you might react with particular interest when you meet other people who share this difference. You might begin to think of yourself as a kind of dual citizen, belonging both to the community in which you actually live and to the smaller, more dispersed community of people sharing your particular minority status.

I think this partly explains why I do not see my atheism as being very important, while many other atheists consider it very important, and certainly politically salient. I grew up in a secular home, and in the small town where I spent much of my childhood, religion was a nonissue in our neighborhood and in the schools I went to. Thus, I never experienced being marginalized for my irreligion, as many young American atheists do, especially in the Midwest.

While my atheist example might give the impression that it's the traits we're harrassed, excluded or otherwise singled out by other people for that always end up being most important to us, I don't think that's quite true. I think the trait also has to relate somehow to one's deepest values, or to encapsulate a large part of one's sense of self*. To go back to autism, I don't remember having been targeted for any particular ill-treatment because I was autistic; I was always conscious of being different from others, but this difference was generally treated as a benign one.

It definitely went beyond consciousness of myself as different, though --- and even beyond knowing how I was different. I was going to special camps and activities for autistic children off and on throughout my childhood, and thus met quite a few other autistics, with whom I was always conscious of sharing something I didn't share with my regular classmates.

"Autistic" is probably the first thing I learned to identify myself with. This word, and the differences it implied, began to permeate my diffuse awareness long before I could even be said to have a self-concept.

For me, the statement "I like being autistic" is a close relative of the statement "I like myself."

*I think this, as well as personal experience and shared histories of oppression and exclusion from mainstream society, explains why race and class are still such important aspects of identity --- the people who share one's race or class are likely to be one's own family, and thus pressure to reject that race or class is often felt as pressure to turn one's back on one's family.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Autogynephilia" and the Clinical Gaze

Starting last fall, when I wrote these posts on the American Psychiatric Association's ongoing project of drafting/revising the DSM-V, I've been kicking around a draft of a third post in that vein, this time concentrating on the doings of the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group.

As you might infer from how long it's taken me to write said post, this entails opening up a huge can of worms.

I've also found I'm in way over my head with a lot of the issues involved, so I think I will intentionally avoid delving too deep into them; instead, I will point you to other people's writings that I've found illuminating.

Briefly, what's at stake is whether trans sexualities and gender identities will continue to be seen as "disordered" --- whether the category of Gender Identity Disorder* will be retained in the DSM-V. While the Gender Identity Disorders sub-workgroup is reportedly consulting trans advocacy organizations as part of its literature-review process, the makeup of the larger workgroup, and the prominence in leadership positions of two of its particularly worrisome members, introduces a strong bias towards viewing transgenderism and -sexuality as pathogies.

Here are some links that discuss the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group --- and what its inclusion of Kenneth Zucker and Ray Blanchard means for trans people --- in greater detail:
Julia Serano, "Why feminists should be concerned with the impending revision of the DSM" (a guest post at
Kelley Winters, "Transvestic Disorder and Policy Dysfunction in the DSM-V" (GID Reform Weblog)
Lena Dahlstrom, "Drafts from the DSM-V workgroup are out, and they're continuing to pathologize trans people" (Trans Group Blog)
Helen G, "APA Task Force reviews possible Gender Identity Disorder treatment guidelines" (Questioning Transphobia)

Now, I'd like to discuss one of the many trans-unfriendly ideas being brought to the DSM-V table: autogynephilia.

This nouveau-Greek concoction (meaning, I guess, "love of oneself as a woman") encapsulates Ray Blanchard's ideas about trans lesbians --- i.e., that they are straight men who fantasize about being women. (Blanchard also tends to refer to trans women as men: in his taxonomy, straight trans women are "homosexual transsexuals," while trans lesbians are "non-homosexual transsexuals." This can be quite confusing, apart from being just plain disrespectful to the people being talked about). Their femininity is thus taken for a sexual fetish rather than a component of their core identity.

Julia Serano has a lot to say on this topic --- not just about autogynephilia, but also about what she sees as the "sexualization" of MTF transgenderism by psychiatry.

Here's a summary of how she sees this sexualization play out (quoted from this description of a paper she presented at a 2007 conference for women in psychology, which became a chapter in her book, Whipping Girl):
The fact that MTF spectrum transgender people bear the brunt of our culture's fascination with, and demonization of, transgenderism, indicates that they are culturally marked, not for failing to conform to gender norms per se, but because they "choose" to be female and/or feminine. The notion that MTF transgender people are conceptualized within a traditionally sexist framework (i.e., one where femaleness/femininity are viewed as subordinate to maleness/masculinity) is perhaps most evident in the way that transsexual women (but not transsexual men) are hyper-sexualized in pornography and the media, wherein they are typically depicted as sex workers or as "sexual deceivers" who supposedly lure innocent straight men into sexual encounters. Implicit in all of these representations is a rigid, dualistic, heterosexual male-centered dichotomy in which only men can be viewed as legitimate sexual initiators and where womenare invariably viewed as sexual objects. In the context of this "predator/prey" dichotomy, transsexual women are consistently viewed as inviting their own sexualization by virtue of their feminine expressions and their physical transitions to female.

Understanding this predator/prey dichotomy allows us to make sense of psychological/psychiatric discourses of transgenderism, which have historically focused almost exclusively on MTF transgender individuals, while largely discounting female-to-male (FTM) transgenderism. For many decades, the diagnostic criteria devised for MTF transsexuals required them not only to be heterosexual and gender-conforming in the female role, but also to be sexually desirable in the eyes of heterosexual men. Those MTF spectrum transgender individuals who were unable or unwilling to meet all of the prerequisites for sexual object have typically been cast as sexual initiators and relegated to a distinct "paraphilic" category --- e.g., transvestic fetishism or autogynophilia. The positioning of this latter group (who are conceptualized as "men" who inappropriately fetishize female/feminine expressions in themselves) in opposition to "true" or "primary" MTF transsexuals (who are cast as willing objects of heterosexual male desire) reiterates the predator/prey dichotomy, thus preserving both the male/female and heterosexual/homosexual binaries. In this context, the invisibility and under-theorization of FTM transgenderism within psychology and psychiatry can be viewed as a direct result of the predator/prey dichotomy, which assumes that FTM spectrum individuals cannot be legitimate sexual initiators in their assigned sex (female), nor can their identified/preferred sex (male) be legitimately objectified.
Serano's thesis, in other words, is that the fear and hatred directed at trans women --- and the particular scrutiny the psychiatric profession directs at them --- derives from misogyny. If women are loathsome and inferior, then what kind of boy or man would choose to become a woman? The answer most commonly proposed by trans-misogynists is that such a man would have to be extremely, pathologically obsessed with sexuality (because, of course, women are sex!) of a particularly questionable stripe --- either the predatory sexuality of the transsexual "deceiver" of straight men, or the masturbatory and fundamentally narcissistic sexuality of the autogynephile.

Hopefully, you can now see where the "gaze" of my title comes in. The "autogynephilia" model does two things to the interaction between doctor and (trans lesbian) patient that skew it from a neutral, professional interaction to an exercise in sexualized power relations: first, it places the patient's sexuality on the clinical agenda, even when she has not made it an issue. Sexuality is seen as fundamental to her identity in a way that it would not be if she were cisgendered. Second, her sexuality is assumed to be wrong --- immature, paraphilic, disordered --- before anything is even said. She can therefore be silenced, or dismissed, or have her words twisted around, if what she says doesn't fit with the theory; because she is decided a priori to have deep-seated psychosexual issues, everything she says regarding her gender expression or sexuality can be considered suspect.

I think these two tendencies within this theoretical model constitute a pretty serious double standard --- the sexualities of trans women are probed and interrogated to a degree that no other sort of person's would be, unless that person had asked for help with a sexual problem. Thus, both because of a disproportionate rummaging through trans women's sexual quirks, and because of a selective attention to those trans women's own stories, the theory of autogynephilia as a cause of MtF transsexualism can't really be falsified. Nobody asks cis women if they find their own femaleness or femininity arousing, and Blanchard, Bailey and other "authorities" see no problem ignoring trans women who claim not to experience that.

*While the existence of GID as a category of mental illness perpetuates some seriously transphobic assumptions --- i.e., that trans people have something horribly wrong with them and need to be fixed, one way or another --- it also makes sex-reassignment surgery more accessible to those trans people who desire it, since by being the recommended "treatment" for the "disease" of GID, the surgery becomes much more justifiable in the eyes of insurance companies. I take this more as an indication that the U.S. health-care system sucks than a ringing endorsement by trans advocates of the medical model of transness, though.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is Everyone a Bit of a Synesthete? I saw this article in the current issue of Scientific American and, once I got over the inherent silliness of the experimental setup, realized that this study's results do seem to prompt the above question.

From the SciAm article:
David Ostry [link], a neuroscientist with co-appointments at McGill University and the New Haven, Conn.-based speech center Haskins Laboratories, has been studying for years the relation between speech and the somatosensory system, the network of receptors in skin and muscle that report information on tactile stimuli to the brain. In his most recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, he and two Haskins colleagues found that subjects heard words differently when their mouths were stretched into different positions. The results have implications for neuroscientists studying speech and hearing as well as for therapists looking for new ways to treat speech disorders.
The study involved seventy-five young, hearing, American-English-speaking volunteers listening to computer-generated speech (a single word, derived from recordings of a human speaker saying either "head" or "had," and then subjected to various frequency modifications) and pressing a button to indicate which word they thought they heard.

Also, they were to do this while hooked up to this thing:

That thing is a robot that's been programmed to pull on those little plastic tabs to stretch the wearer's mouth in a certain way (Fig. 1, taken from Ito et al.).

(Here's the PNAS article's description):

We programmed a small robotic device (Phantom 1.0, SensAble Technologies) to apply skin-stretch loads (Fig. 1). The skin stretch was produced by using small plastic tabs (2 x 3 cm), which were attached bilaterally to the skin at the sides of the mouth and were connected to the robotic device through thin wires. The wires were supported by wire supports with pulleys to avoid contact between the wires and facial skin. By changing the configuration of the robotic device and the wire supports, the facial skin was stretched in different directions.

(That last sentence is a good example of why the passive voice, while seemingly a good choice for scientists looking for a nice, impersonal way to write about methods without going "We did this, and then we did this and this and this" over and over again, can also be a grammatical and semantic minefield. I try never to write in passive voice without consciously asking myself, at least twice, what the subject of my sentence is!)

Anyway. I was writing about methods before my inner grammar Nazi interrupted, so let's get back to that.

The seventy-five volunteers were split into five groups of fifteen, each of which got a different sort of stimulation from the robot facehugger. Two of the groups were designated as control groups, which in this context means that the ways in which their faces were stretched bore no resemblance to any part of human speech:

We used a robotic device (Fig. 1) to create patterns of facial skin deformation that would be similar to those involved in the production of head and had. We tested 3 directions of skin stretch (up, down, backward) with 3 different groups of subjects. We also carried out 2 control tests in which we assessed the effects on speech perception of patterns of skin stretch that would not be experienced during normal facial motion in speech. One involved a twitch-like pattern of skin stretch; the other involved static skin deformation.

They found that, when participants' lips were pulled upward (like the motion used to shape the short "e" sound in "head"), they were more likely to hear the intermediate sounds as "head," while when their lips were pulled downward (like the short, nasal "a" in "had"), they were more likely to hear those same sounds as "had." Pulling the corners of the mouth straight back had no effect on which word they were likelier to hear.

One thing they didn't measure, but that I kind of wish they had, was whether the presence of extraneous sensory input (i.e., the skin stretching) had any effect on the participants' ability to register what they heard. The way the study was designed, all they could tell was how the "perceptual boundary" could be shifted one way or another --- not whether perception itself was disrupted, as I might expect it to be with such an intrusive competing stimulus!

Although, I can also see how a consistent effect that varies with the type of somatosensory stimulus would argue against any interference between the two sensory processes (i.e., hearing and touch), and would even suggest that they aren't separate processes at all.

That seems to be what the study's authors suggest:

The modulation of speech perception observed in the present study may arise as a consequence of facial somatosensory input to facial motor and premotor areas, a pattern that would be consistent with the motor theory of speech perception. However, somatosensory inputs may also affect auditory processing more directly. A number of studies have reported bidirectional effects linking somatosensory and auditory cortices. Indeed, activity due to somatosensory inputs has been observed within a region of the human auditory cortex that is traditionally considered unisensory.

That's the part that really sounds like synesthesia to me, albeit a somewhat weaker version where sensations of one type (say, a feeling of tension or pressure on facial skin) influence your interpretation of sensations of another type (say, sounds that may or may not be words), rather than creating those partnered sensations de novo, as happens in full-blown synesthesia.

Ito, T., Tiede, M., & Ostry, D. (2009). Somatosensory function in speech perception Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106 (4), 1245-1248 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0810063106