In 2003, I began writing about the purported correlation between the autism spectrum and the gender spectrum. Since that time, more research has been published on the interesting issues raised by these sometimes overlapping traits. I have collected some reader responses as well.
I began looking into this after autism researcher Simon Baron-Cohen suggested that autism is a sort of ultimate expression of a “male brain.”
This site rejects disease models for gender diversity and neurodiversity. Rather than viewing autism and gender identity as diseases or disorders, it is more accurate to view them as traits that are neither good nor bad. Science requires value-neutral terms and concepts, so characterizing these as diseases is not scientific.
Many neurodiverse and gender-diverse people think and act in ways that fall outside social norms. This can cause problems when others are annoyed or offended, which in turn can cause distress and anxiety for some people with one or both traits.
Some of the research described below characterizes these traits as disorders or diseases. Inclusion on this page does not necessarily mean this site endorses everything in these works.
Warrier V, Greenberg DM, Weir E, Buckingham C, Smith P, Lai M-C, Allison C, Baron-Cohen S (2020). Elevated rates of autism, other neurodevelopmental and psychiatric diagnoses, and autistic traits in transgender and gender-diverse individuals. Nat Commun. 2020 Aug 7;11(1):3959. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-17794-1.
van der Miesen AIR, Cohen-Kettenis PT, de Vries ALC (2018). Is There a Link Between Gender Dysphoria and Autism Spectrum Disorder? J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2018 Nov;57(11):884-885. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2018.04.022
Stagg SD, Vincent J (2019). Autistic traits in individuals self-defining as transgender or nonbinary. Eur Psychiatry. 2019 Sep;61:17-22. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eurpsy.2019.06.003
White, Bryony (November 15, 2016). The Link Between Autism and Trans Identity. The Atlantic https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2016/11/the-link-between-autism-and-trans-identity/507509/
Lawson, Wenn (October 29, 2015). Interview on autism and gender dysphoria.
Powis, Sally (March 16, 2017). Gender dysphoria and autism: Challenges and support. National Autistic Society https://network.autism.org.uk/knowledge/insight-opinion/gender-dysphoria-and-autism-challenges-and-support
Autism Speaks (autismspeaks.org)
Autism Research Institute (autism.org)
Asperger/Autism Network (aane.org)