Researchers talking about gender dysphoria and autism at the International autism research conference INSAR 2018 suggest that trans autistic people face poorer mental health and wellbeing. Providing access to gender-diverse role models and peer support may help.
We thought this panel may be of particular interest to you because gender dysphoria is very common in autism. The studies discussed in this article focus on the voices and perspectives of autistic gender-diverse individuals.
What does research tell us?
Dr Meredith Powers (USA) reported that many autistic trans young people say that they are not comfortable expressing their gender because they fear negativity. Their gender was also often doubted due to their autism - people suggesting it may be an autism obsession.
Dr Mark Stokes (Australia) found that both autism and gender dysphoria are linked to poorer mental health and wellbeing outcomes. This gets worse with every minority group a person falls into.
Dr John Strang (USA) found that 90% of autistic trans young people feel they have a strong connection with other autistic transgender people and 85% said access to gender-diverse role models is key. Access to role models is key because it is difficult to imagine something as abstract as living as a transgender adult.
Dr Annelou de Vries (Amsterdam) explained that we still do not know who will benefit from gender affirming treatment and who will not. This should be a focus of future research.
Dr Strang's research suggests that providing gender-diverse role models can help autistic trans individuals to think about their own futures, which may help lead to positive outcomes.