Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 42, Issue 2, pp 301–306 | Cite as

Brief Report: Female-To-Male Transsexual People and Autistic Traits

  • Rebecca M. JonesEmail author
  • Sally Wheelwright
  • Krista Farrell
  • Emma Martin
  • Richard Green
  • Domenico Di Ceglie
  • Simon Baron-Cohen
Brief Report


The ‘extreme male brain’ theory suggests females with Autism Spectrum Conditions are hyper-masculinized in certain aspects of behavior. We predicted that females with Gender Identity Disorder (who are masculinized) would have elevated Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) scores. AQ scores from five groups were compared: (1) n = 61 transmen (female-to-male transsexual people); (2) n = 198 transwomen (male-to-female transsexual people); (3) n = 76 typical males; (4) n = 98 typical females; and (5) n = 125 individuals with Asperger Syndrome (AS). Transmen had a higher mean AQ than typical females, typical males and transwomen, but lower than individuals with AS. Transmen have more autistic traits and may have had difficulty socializing with female peers and thus found it easier to identify with male peer groups.


Autism Spectrum Conditions Gender Identity Disorder Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) Co-occurrence 



We are grateful to the MRC (UK), the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, and the Gates Cambridge Trust for funding during the period of this work. RJ presented this work at the IMFAR Conference, London, May 2008. We are grateful to Melissa Hines, Rebecca Knickmeyer, Bonnie Auyeung, Emma Chapman, and Vivette Glover for valuable discussions; and to the participants who kindly helped us with this project.


  1. APA. (1994). DSM-IV Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  2. Auyeung, B., Baron-Cohen, S., Ashwin, E., Knickmeyer, R., Taylor, K., & Hackett, G. (2009). Fetal testosterone and autistic traits. British Journal of Psychology, 100(1), 1–22.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Auyeung, B., Taylor, K., Hackett, G., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2010). Foetal testosterone and autistic traits in 18 to 24-month-old children. Mol Autism, 1(1), 11.Google Scholar
  4. Baba, T., Endo, T., Honnma, H., Kitajima, Y., Hayashi, T., Ikeda, H., et al. (2007). Association between polycystic ovary syndrome and female-to-male transsexuality. Human Reproduction, 22(4), 1011–1016.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baird, G., Simonoff, E., Pickles, A., Chandler, S., Loucas, T., Meldrum, D., et al. (2006). Prevalence of disorders of the autism spectrum in a population cohort of children in South Thames: The special needs and autism project (SNAP). Lancet, 368(9531), 210–215.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baron-Cohen, S. (2002). The extreme male brain theory of autism. Trends in Cognitive Science, 6, 248–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baron-Cohen, S., & Hammer, J. (1997). Is autism an extreme form of the male brain? Advances in Infancy Research, 11, 193–217.Google Scholar
  8. Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Scahill, V., Lawson, J., & Spong, A. (2001a). Are intuitive physics and intuitive psychology independent? Journal of Developmental and Learning Disorders, 5, 47–78.Google Scholar
  9. Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., Skinner, R., Martin, J., & Clubley, E. (2001b). The Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ): Evidence from Asperger syndrome/high functioning autism, males and females, scientists and mathematicians. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 31, 5–17.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Baron-Cohen, S., Richler, J., Bisarya, D., Gurunathan, N., & Wheelwright, S. (2003). The Systemising Quotient (SQ): An investigation of adults with Asperger syndrome or high functioning autism and normal sex differences. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Series B., 358, 361–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Baron-Cohen, S., Knickmeyer, R. C., & Belmonte, M. K. (2005). Sex differences in the brain: Implications for explaining autism. Science, 310(5749), 819–823.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chakrabarti, B., Dudbridge, F., Kent, L., Wheelwright, S., Hill-Cawthorne, G., Allison, C., et al. (2009). Genes related to sex steroids, neural growth, and social-emotional behavior are associated with autistic traits, empathy, and Asperger syndrome. Autism Res, 2(3), 157–177.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chapman, E., Baron-Cohen, S., Auyeung, B., Knickmeyer, R., Taylor, K., & Hackett, G. (2006). Fetal testosterone and empathy: Evidence from the empathy quotient (EQ) and the “Reading the mind in the eyes” test. Social Neuroscience, 1(2), 135–148.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. de Vries, A. L., Noens, I. L., Cohen-Kettenis, P. T., van Berckelaer-Onnes, I. A., & Doreleijers, T. A. (2010). Autism spectrum disorders in gender dysphoric children and adolescents. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 40(8), 930–936.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Di Ceglie, D. (1998). Reflections on the nature of the “atypical gender identity organization”. In D. Di Ceglie & D. Freedman (Eds.), A stranger in my own body: Atypical gender identity development and mental health (pp. 9–25). London: Karnac.Google Scholar
  16. Green, R., & Young, R. (2001). Hand preference, sexual preference and transsexualism. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30, 565–574.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hoekstra, R. A., Bartels, M., Hudziak, J. J., Van Beijsterveldt, T. C., & Boomsma, D. I. (2007). Genetic and environmental covariation between autistic traits and behavioral problems. Twin Res Hum Genet, 10(6), 853–860.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ingudomnukul, E., Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., & Knickmeyer, R. (2007). Elevated rates of testosterone-related disorders in women with autism spectrum conditions. Hormones and Behavior, 51(5), 597–604.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jolliffe, T., & Baron-Cohen, S. (1997). Are people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome faster than normal on the embedded figures task? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 38, 527–534.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Knickmeyer, R. C., Baron-Cohen, S., Raggatt, P., & Taylor, K. (2005). Foetal testosterone, social relationships, and restricted interests in children. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46(2), 198–210.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Knickmeyer, R. C., Baron-Cohen, S., Fane, B. A., Wheelwright, S., Mathews, G. A., Conway, G. S., et al. (2006a). Androgens and autistic traits: A study of individuals with congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Hormones and Behavior, 50(1), 148–153.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Knickmeyer, R. C., Wheelwright, S., Hoekstra, R., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2006b). Age of menarche in females with autism spectrum conditions. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 48(12), 1007–1008.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Knickmeyer, R. C., Wheelwright, S., & Baron-Cohen, S. B. (2008). Sex-typical play: Masculinization/defeminization in girls with an autism spectrum condition. Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 38(6), 1028–1035.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kraemer, B., Delsignore, A., Gundelfinger, R., Schnyder, U., & Hepp, U. (2005). Comorbidity of asperger syndrome and gender identity disorder. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 14, 292–296.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Landen, M., & Rasmussen, P. (1997). Gender identity disorder in a girl with autism–a case report. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 6(3), 170–173.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lawrence, A. A. (2010). Sexual orientation versus age of onset as bases for typologies (subtypes) for gender identity disorder in adolescents and adults. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 514–545.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Michel, A., Mormont, C., & Legros, J. (2001). A psycho-endocrinological overview of transsexualism. European Journal of Endocrinology, 145, 365–376.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mueller, A., Gooren, L. J., Naton-Schötz, S., Cupisti, S., Beckmann, T. W., & Dittrich, R. (2008). Prevalence of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and hyperandrogenemia in female-to-male transsexuals. The Journal of Clinical Endrocrinology and Metabolism, 93(4), 1408–1411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mukaddes, N. M. (2002). Gender identity problems in autistic children. Child: Care, Health and Development, 28(6), 529–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Orlebeke, J. F., Boomsma, D. I., Gooren, L. J., Verschoor, A. M., & Van Den Bree, M. J. M. (1992). Elevated sinistrality in transsexuals. Neuropsychology, 6(4), 351–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Robinow, O. (2009). Paraphilia and transgenderism: A connection with asperger disorder? Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 24(2), 143–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Soper, H., Satz, P., Orsini, D., henry, R., Zvi, J., & Schulman, M. (1986). Handedness patterns in autism suggests subytpes. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 16(155–167).Google Scholar
  33. Tateno, M., Tateno, Y., & Saito, T. (2008). Comorbid childhood gender identity disorder in a boy with Asperger syndrome. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 62(2), 238.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Wheelwright, S., Baron-Cohen, S., Goldenfeld, N., Delaney, J., Fine, D., Smith, R., et al. (2006). Predicting Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ) from the systemizing quotient-revised (SQ-R) and empathy quotient (EQ). Brain Research, 1079(1), 47–56.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wheelwright, S., Auyeung, B., Allison, C., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2010). Defining the broader, medium and narrow autism phenotype among parents using Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). Molecular Autism, 1(10), 1–9.Google Scholar
  36. Woodbury-Smith, M. R., Robinson, J., Wheelwright, S., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2005). Screening adults for Asperger syndrome using the AQ: A preliminary study of its diagnostic validity in clinical practice. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 35(3), 331–335.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Zucker, K. (2005). J. Gender identity disorder in girls. In D. J. Bell, S. L. Foster, & E. J. Mash (Eds.), Handbook of behavioral and emotional problems in girls (pp. 285–319). New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca M. Jones
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • Sally Wheelwright
    • 1
  • Krista Farrell
    • 2
  • Emma Martin
    • 3
  • Richard Green
    • 4
  • Domenico Di Ceglie
    • 5
  • Simon Baron-Cohen
    • 1
  1. 1.Autism Research Centre, Psychiatry DepartmentCambridge UniversityCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Addenbrooke’s HospitalCambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation TrustCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Gender Identity Support and Research DivisionLima House GroupLittle DownhamUK
  4. 4.Imperial CollegeLondonUK
  5. 5.Gender Identity Development ServiceTavistock and Portman NHS Foundation TrustLondonUK
  6. 6.Department of NeuroscienceWeill Cornell Graduate School of Medical SciencesNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations