Gender identity and sexual orientation in autism spectrum disorder

Autism. 2018 Nov;22(8):970-982. doi: 10.1177/1362361317714587. Epub 2017 Sep 15.


Clinical impressions indicate that there is an overrepresentation of gender-dysphoria within the autism spectrum disorder. However, little is presently known about the demographics of gender-identity issues in autism spectrum disorder. Based upon what little is known, we hypothesized that there would be an increased prevalence of gender-dysphoria among those with autism spectrum disorder compared to a typically developing population. We surveyed gender-dysphoria with the Gender-Identity/Gender-Dysphoria Questionnaire among 90 males and 219 females with autism spectrum disorder and compared these rates to those of 103 males and 158 females without autism spectrum disorder. When compared to typically developing individuals, autistic individuals reported a higher number of gender-dysphoric traits. Rates of gender-dysphoria in the group with autism spectrum disorder were significantly higher than reported in the wider population. Mediation analysis found that the relationship between autistic traits and sexual orientation was mediated by gender-dysphoric traits. Results suggest that autism spectrum disorder presents a unique experience to the formation and consolidation of gender identity, and for some autistic individuals, their sexual orientation relates to their gender experience. It is important that clinicians working with autism spectrum disorder are aware of the gender-diversity in this population so that the necessary support for healthy socio-sexual functioning and mental well-being is provided.

Keywords: and transgender; autism spectrum disorder; bisexual; gay; gender identity; gender-dysphoria; heterosexuality; homosexuality; lesbian; sexual orientation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / psychology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Gender Dysphoria / epidemiology*
  • Gender Dysphoria / psychology
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Sexuality / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult