Phenomenology of gender dysphoria in autism: a multiperspective qualitative analysis

Kate Cooper, William Mandy, Catherine Butler, Ailsa Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (SciVal)


Background: Autistic people are overrepresented in gender clinic settings, but limited evidence is available to guide clinical decision making for this patient group. We aimed to generate a comprehensive understanding of the phenomenology of gender dysphoria in autistic people.

Methods: We conducted a multi-perspectival interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), from five different perspectives; autistic young people and adults with experience of gender dysphoria, parents of young people, and clinicians working with autistic people with gender dysphoria in both adult and young person settings (n = 68).

Results: IPA analysis resulted in two themes, ‘discovering gender identity’ and ‘the complexities of moving towards gender comfort’. Participants agreed that there was often an interaction between gender dysphoria and features of autism such as sensory sensitivities. There was relative consensus across groups about the need for autism adaptations to be made in gender clinics. Autistic adults were more likely to see autism as an important identity than young people, but both groups were clear that autism did not impair their understanding of gender. In contrast, some parents and clinicians working with young people expressed concern that autism did impact self-understanding.

Discussion: While the groups tended to agree on the ways in which particular features of autism can compound gender dysphoria, there were a range of perspectives on the ways in which autism impacted on self-knowledge.

Conclusion: Recommendations for adaptations when working with autistic people with gender dysphoria are presented.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-276
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number2
Early online date12 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2023


  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • adolescence
  • gender dysphoria
  • gender identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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