Celebrating Neurodiversity: Exploring the Intersection of Autism and Gender Identity

Autism Awareness Day 2023 Blog Post Image


Today, I invite you to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day, an annual event dedicated to raising awareness, promoting understanding, and fostering acceptance of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) worldwide. Established by the United Nations in 2007, this day has since been marked by various events, campaigns, and activities to encourage inclusivity and support for those on the autism spectrum.

As we shine a light on autism and neurodiversity, it’s essential to recognize the fascinating intersection between autism and gender identity. Research has shown significant overlap between autism and transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming identification. A groundbreaking study, the largest of its kind, confirmed the connection between autism and gender diversity, revealing that autistic individuals are more likely to identify as transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming than the general population.

In this blog post, I aim to approach this subject from an affirming and inclusive perspective, celebrating the unique experiences and perspectives of those who embody both neurodiversity and diverse gender identities. I will explore this intersection by providing information, discussing research findings, sharing personal stories, and offering resources for support. My goal is to foster greater understanding and empathy, empowering you to be allies and advocates for autistic and transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming individuals in our LGBTQIA+ communities.

Understanding Autism

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by a range of symptoms and behaviours that can affect social communication, sensory processing, and repetitive or restrictive patterns of behaviour. The term “spectrum” highlights the vast diversity in the way ASD presents itself, with individuals experiencing a unique combination of strengths and challenges.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of ASD has steadily increased over the past few decades. As of 2021, it is estimated that 1 in 44 children in the United States is diagnosed with ASD. This increase can be attributed to better diagnostic tools, increased awareness, and a broader understanding of the autism spectrum.

The concept of neurodiversity emphasizes that there is natural variation in human neurocognitive functioning. This idea challenges the notion that neurological differences, such as autism, ADHD, or dyslexia, are inherently negative or pathological. Instead, neurodiversity celebrates the wide range of cognitive abilities and experiences that contribute to human diversity.

The benefits of neurodiversity are numerous. By recognizing and valuing different cognitive styles, we can better understand the unique strengths and contributions of neurodiverse individuals. For example, some autistic individuals possess exceptional memory, pattern recognition, or problem-solving abilities that can lead to innovative solutions and creative approaches in various fields.

Embracing neurodiversity also entails fostering inclusive environments that support different ways of thinking and processing information. By doing so, we can help to reduce stigma, promote understanding, and ensure that neurodiverse individuals are valued and respected in society. This inclusive approach not only benefits neurodiverse individuals but also enriches our communities and fosters a more empathetic and accepting world.

The Intersection of Autism and Gender Identity

Transgender, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming identities describe individuals whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth. Transgender individuals identify with a gender opposite to their assigned sex, while nonbinary individuals do not exclusively identify as male or female. Gender-nonconforming individuals express their gender in ways that do not conform to societal expectations for their assigned sex.

The largest study to date investigating the overlap between autism and gender diversity found a significant connection between the two. Published in the journal Nature Communications, this study analyzed data from more than 34,000 individuals and discovered that autistic individuals are three to six times more likely to have gender incongruence than the general population.

Various other studies and articles have explored this link between autism and gender diversity, shedding light on the unique experiences of those who identify as both autistic and transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming. These resources include:

  1. Living Between Genders, a deep-dive article discussing the experiences of autistic individuals navigating gender identity
  2. The Link Between Autism and Trans Identity, an article from The Atlantic that delves into how the neurodiversity movement is helping to reshape the conversation around gender identity and autism
  3. Autism and Transgender, a PsychCentral article highlighting the growing body of research on the intersection of autism and gender identity
  4. A Nature article examining the genetic links between autism and gender dysphoria
  5. Autism.org.uk’s informational page on autism and gender identity, which offers resources and support for autistic individuals and their families
  6. An NPR article discussing how transgender and nonbinary individuals are up to six times more likely to have autism
  7. A Gender Report article exploring the link between autism and gender dysphoria

Personal Stories and Experiences

Hearing firsthand accounts from autistic individuals who identify as transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming provides invaluable insight into their unique experiences. Here are three such stories:

Sam (nonbinary, they/them) shares how their autism diagnosis helped them better understand their nonbinary identity. The clarity and self-awareness gained from this diagnosis allowed them to explore their gender identity more authentically, eventually leading them to embrace their nonbinary identity.

Jessica (transgender woman, she/her) recalls how growing up, she struggled with social expectations surrounding gender. As a transgender autistic woman, she faced challenges in accessing appropriate support and resources. However, through perseverance and self-advocacy, Jessica was able to find a supportive community that understood and embraced both her autism and gender identity.

Alex (gender-nonconforming, they/them) recounts their journey of self-discovery, which included understanding their autism and gender-nonconforming identity. While they faced challenges in finding acceptance and understanding from their family and peers, Alex ultimately found solace in online communities where others shared similar experiences. This support helped them build the confidence to live authentically and advocate for themselves and others.

These personal stories highlight the importance of understanding and supporting the unique experiences of autistic individuals who identify as transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming. By listening to their stories and learning from their perspectives, we can foster empathy and develop better support systems to help them navigate the complexities of their intersecting identities. It’s essential that we, as a society, strive to create inclusive environments that celebrate and affirm the diverse experiences of all individuals, including those who live at the intersection of autism and diverse gender identities.

Local Resources and Support

Accessing local resources is essential for anyone seeking support for gender-related concerns. The BC Children’s Hospital Gender Resources is an excellent example of such a resource, offering a comprehensive list of services and information for gender-diverse individuals and their families. These resources include educational materials, medical support, mental health services, and community programs tailored to meet the needs of those seeking gender-affirming care.

I encourage you to seek out additional local resources and support groups, such as Qmunity’s Autistic Queer Peers support group, that cater to the unique needs of autistic individuals who identify as transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming. Connecting with others who share similar experiences, as well as professionals who specialize in providing gender-affirming care, can be invaluable in navigating the complexities of these intersecting identities.

Embracing Neurodiversity and Affirming Gender Identity

Inclusivity and acceptance in our communities are crucial for the well-being and success of all individuals, particularly those who belong to marginalized groups. By fostering a supportive and understanding environment, we can empower autistic and transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming individuals to thrive and contribute their unique perspectives and talents to our society.

Neurodiversity is something to celebrate, as it enriches our world with a multitude of experiences and ways of thinking. By embracing neurodiversity, we acknowledge that each person’s cognitive strengths and challenges contribute to the rich tapestry of human experience. We learn to value and respect the unique abilities and insights that neurodiverse individuals bring to our communities.

I encourage you to be allies for autistic and transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming individuals by educating yourself about these intersecting identities, listening to personal stories, and promoting inclusivity in your everyday lives. As allies, we can advocate for better resources, challenge stigma and discrimination, and work towards building a more empathetic and accepting society for all.


As we commemorate Autism Awareness Day together, it is crucial to recognize and appreciate the intersection of autism and gender identity, understanding the unique experiences of autistic individuals who identify as transgender, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming. By exploring this topic from an affirming and inclusive perspective, my aim is to promote empathy, understanding, and support for those living at the crossroads of neurodiversity and diverse gender identities.

I invite you to share this blog post with your networks, continue educating yourself about the complexities of autism and gender identity, and actively support your community in creating inclusive and welcoming environments. Together, we can foster a greater understanding of the diverse experiences that make our world richer and more vibrant, celebrating the beauty of neurodiversity and affirming the value of every individual’s unique identity.

Disclaimer: This blog shares general information only, not professional advice or recommendations. Consult healthcare providers for personal guidance. Decisions based on content are the reader's responsibility. Thank you.

Clayre runs a group practice of three queer and trans therapists, including youth therapist Audrey Wolfe, RCC, LGBT therapist Camber Giberson, RCC, CCC, and gender-affirming therapist Clayre Sessoms, RP, RCT, RCC, CCC, ATR-P. Work with us: book a session.

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