The Link Between Autism and Gender Dysphoria
Two days ago I thought that autism and being transgender were two completely separate entities, but I was wrong. Teams of researchers have been studying the correlation between being on the autism spectrum and gender dysphoria since 1981. At that time one group noticed that 10% of a group of 30 children with autism had trouble answering the question “Are you a little boy or a little girl?”, while fewer than 1% of the children of the same age struggled with the question.
According to the CDC, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. While in gender dysphoria there must be a marked difference between the individuals expressed or experienced gender and the other gender that others assign to them. This must continue for more than six months. This is why researchers suggest the link from ASD to GD that those children with autism form a fixation with their gender identity. A person with autism may often have obsessions with things such as trains and trucks that identify with gender. A child may become obsessed with the sensation of touching things that may belong to a little girl, such as a dress or a tutu. This may lead to being bullied and finding comfort with those objects. Others may be bullied and not accepted by members of their own sex, leading to gravitate toward the opposite gender.
Other researchers are turning to biological reasons for the link citing different levels of the hormone androgen in the brain while in the womb. In other words, a high level of the hormone of a baby girl in the womb may influence her to become a boy. Yet this does not explain why the baby may develop autism.
Yet with all this research the numbers are still pretty low. One of the first studies to be conducted in Holland found that of 204 children with GD, only 7.8% had traits of autism. Also according to researchers the link between ASD and GD is between 0.5 and 2 percent. To me this tells me that more research needs to be done.
How do we as professionals handle this? Some professionals are suggesting that persons on the autism spectrum that there need to transition is because of their autism. This may not be the case and more research needs to be done. This kind of misreading can have dire consequences such as in the case of Kayden Clark. Arizona police killed Clark after receiving a call that he might be suicidal. The officers were threatened by Clark who was carrying a knife. Clark was a transgender man who was also diagnosed with autism. He was a Youtube star that posted videos of how difficult it was to find professionals to help with the transition. Right after Clark died, a nonprofit called Autistic Self Advocacy Network found many roadblocks to help with Clark’s transition.
Whether you are autistic, transgender or both, there is no reason why you should not get the supportive care you need. One group #AutisticTransPride create awareness with blogs and support for trans people with autism.