Traits of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Adults with Gender Dysphoria

Abstract

The literature examining the co-occurrence of gender dysphoria (GD) and autistic traits has so far been limited to a series of small case studies and two systematic studies, one looking at autistic traits in gender dysphoric children and the other set within the context of the extreme male brain hypothesis and looking at adults. The current study examined this co-occurrence of GD and autistic traits in an adult population, to see whether this heightened prevalence persisted from childhood as well as to provide further comparison of MtF versus FtM transsexuals and homosexual versus nonhomosexual individuals. Using the Autistic Spectrum Quotient (AQ), 91 GD adults (63 male-to-female [MtF] and 28 female-to-male [FtM]) undertaking treatment at a gender clinic completed the AQ. The prevalence of autistic traits consistent with a clinical diagnosis for an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was 5.5 % (n = 3 MtF and n = 2 FtM) compared to reports of clinical diagnoses of 0.5–2.0 % in the general population. In contrast to the single previous report in adults, there was no significant difference between MtF and FtM on AQ scores; however, all of those who scored above the clinical cut-off were classified as nonhomosexual with respect to natal sex. Results were considered in the context of emerging theories for the observed co-occurrence of GD and autistic traits.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Effect size, d, was calculated as follows: M1 − M2/[(SD1 * N1) + (SD2 * N2)/(N1 + N2)].

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the UK Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES).

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Correspondence to Vickie Pasterski.

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Pasterski, V., Gilligan, L. & Curtis, R. Traits of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Adults with Gender Dysphoria. Arch Sex Behav 43, 387–393 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-013-0154-5

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Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Asperger’s Disorder
  • Comorbidity
  • Gender dysphoria
  • Transsexualism