A recent, global online survey has provided exclusive insight into autism and gender identity. According to it, 5.7% of autistic children struggle with some form of gender dysphoria. It is a condition in which an individual feels disconnected from the gender assigned to them at birth.
The survey that was conducted by Autism Parenting Magazine had over 1,60,000 people from around the world. Out of the total respondents, over 72% were parents of autistic children, and the remaining participants were full-time caregivers, grandparents, therapists, teachers, and individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Given that the DSM-5 data puts gender dysphoria in biological males at 0.005-0.014% and in biological females at 0.002-0.003%, these numbers are astonishing. They indicate that it is more prevalent in the autistic community than in the general population.
The respondents that did struggle with gender identity were further presented with a detailed questionnaire. Out of them, 50% said that such confusion surfaced at age 10 years or older, 16.7% chose five to 10 years age bracket, and 33.3% people selected five years or younger. When asked about their preferred pronouns, 17.6% of people said that they or their child prefers gender-neutral pronouns. Even though 59.6% said that their child prefers ‘He’ or ‘She,’ only 17.6% of those children identify with the pronoun they were assigned at birth.
The last question of the survey enquired about whether the respondents know of any other autistic children who struggle with gender dysphoria. A significant 34.8% of people responded with a yes, suggesting that gender dysphoria might be even more common in the autistic community.
Autism experts also share the same opinion. Many of them are witnessing a definite increase in gender identity confusion in pre-teen, teen, and young adult individuals on the autism spectrum. So much so, that a new word ‘autigender,’ is often used to describe the people who feel an inextricable link between their gender identity and autism.
Popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok are proving to be a safe space for autistic people who do not identify with their assigned genders and consider themselves as non-binary to express themselves freely. The introduction of a feature that allows people to define their preferred pronouns has also helped them in putting what they’ve always felt into words. Hashtags such as #nonbinary, #genderfluid, #asexual, #genderfluid, etc are trending now more than ever. This is only the beginning of a paradigm shift in the fabric of society – opening up the avenues for further conversations and wider acceptance. It is therefore advisable for the parents and caregivers to be more open towards not only the concept but also the conversation surrounding gender dysphoria.
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