On the Science of Changing Sex

Autistic Dawn

Posted in Science Criticism, Transgender Youth by Kay Brown on January 21, 2023

— Are gender dysphoric youth prone to being autistic. Or reversing that, are autistic children prone to being gender dysphoric? There has been some clinicians suggesting there is a connection. But does the data support that assertion? There is data that suggests that transmen (FtM transsexuals) do show more autism type characteristics but the data for transwomen is mixed. That is to say, that gynephilic transwomen seem to have the name level of such as control men, while exclusively androphilic (HSTS) transwomen show the same, lower, level as control women. Given that HSTS are far more likely to have been identified as gender dysphoric as youth, we would expect that such male children w/ gender dysphoria would NOT show elevated autistic traits.

But I was challenged on this prediction and given a citation for a 2015 paper by Van der Laan, et al., that purported to show that both male and female gender dysphoric children did show elevated autistic traits.

But did it? Let’s look at the data. The paper is available on SciHub as a downloadable pdf, so you may refer to Table 2. Here is where we begin to see something odd. The researchers do NOT have data on any Autisism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnoses nor have they used the clinically validated Autism Quotient (AQ) instrument as in other studies. Instead they have used only two items in a maternally scored checklist about “obsessions” and “compulsions”. These constructs only weakly map to ASD, and could map to other disorders… or no disorder at all. After all, one child’s “obsession” is another child’s hobby, or even just a keen interest. This alone brings the study’s value for our purposes to near zero. However, data is data.

Of the male children, 54% were scored as having an obsession with a (cross?) gendered theme. While of the sibling controls, only 13% were. Sounds pretty convincing doesn’t it? But is it? But of the controls, 87% were scored as having an obsession with a non-gendered theme. Gee… that doesn’t sound like these gender dysphoric youth were any more likely to have an obsession indicating a likely ASD. The rest of the data for the compulsions and for the female children is similar.

The authors appear to know that this may not reflect a propensity to ASD, as they note,

“Another possibility is that intense cross-sex interests are simply a manifestation of GD. Such interests may lead to a clinical presentation that is ASD-like but only superficially so because the intensity of the interests is due to the GD and not an underlying ASD. If such were the case, then few, if any, additional ASD features should accompany intense cross-sex interests. If few additional ASD features are present, then other circumstances that might influence such interests to be elevated should be considered. For instance, GD children may obsess about cross-sex objects and activities as a way of communicating their strong desire to be the opposite gender. When confronted with resistance about this desire, the child may react by further intensifying these obsessions and, hence, his or her communication of this desire.”

My snarky response is, “Ya think?!?”

Further Reading:

Autism and Transgender

Autistic Sky

Autistic Sunset


VanderLann, et al., “Do Children With Gender Dysphoria Have Intense/Obsessional Interests?”, JOURNAL OF SEX RESEARCH, 52(2), 213–219, 2015, DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2013.860073

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Autistic Sky

Posted in Brain Sex, Confirming Two Type Taxonomy, Female-to-Male by Kay Brown on September 21, 2014

shrinking brainFor the past several years, evidence has been accumulating that there is a fairly high comorbitity between transsexuality / transgenderism and the autism spectrum.  Interestingly, and perhaps not totally surprisingly, among MTF transwomen, it appears to be exclusively found in the non-exclusively androphilic population.  This fits the Freund/Blanchard taxonomy and more importantly, Blanchard’s prediction that “non-homosexual” (with respect to natal sex) MTF transwomen would exhibit neurological / brain differences from control males but these differences would NOT be a shift toward female like brains.

Autism and autism spectrum disorders are found in four to five  times as many men as women.  There are a number of theories as to why this happens, including the rather intriguing “hypermasculine brain hypothesis”, in which a link between the slight differences between men and women, as groups, having different cognitive and social behaviors and the apparent similarity, or rather, exaggeration of these differences between men and women, found in those on the autism spectrum.  If autism is a form of hypermasculinization, it would not surprise us to learn that FTM transmen were more autistic-like than most women… and that is what one group of researchers found.

Using a 50 item, Likert scored, instrument called the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ), Jones, et Al., found that FTM transmen as a group, scored 23.2, higher than control women AND men!  This puts about half of the FTM onto the high functioning autism spectrum!!   (The lower AQ cut-off for ASD is 23.)  Non-exclusively-androphilic transwomen scored essentially the same as the control men, while exclusively androphilic transwomen scored essentially the same as the control women, and definitely (statistically significant: p<0.03 ) below both the control men and non-androphilic transwomen.

Group:               Men                  Women       FTM                 Non-Androphilic           Androphilic
.                                                                                                     MTF  N=129                   MTF N=69

Score (SD):       17.8 (6.8)        15.4 (5.7)     23.2 (9.1)        17.4 (7.4)                         15.0 (5.6)

The implication is clear, FTM’s are masculine, perhaps even hypermasculine, while the data also supports the Freund/Blanchard two type taxonomy for MTF transwomen.  In the discussion section of the paper, the authors remarked,

“Interestingly, with the 198 transwomen group, there were 6 individuals (i.e. 3%) with a diagnosis of AS. This rate is about 3 times as many as in the general population.”

These authors didn’t state what the sexuality of the six AS individuals were; but if they conform to the greater likelihood that they were non-androphilic, found in other papers, the incidence rate for such non-androphilic transwomen would be closer to five times the rate found in the general population, however, that is only about twice as high as that found in the male population.

(Addendum: 1/21/2017:  Looking at the data again, this time from the perspective of effect sizes with respect to men vs. women and non-androphilic vs. androphilic aids us in understanding how important this difference is.  First, the effect size between men and women is 0.38 a modest but still very noticable difference in the populations.  Now, let’s look at the diffence between non-androphilic and androphilic at 0.37, nearly identical to the difference between men and women.  So, lets compare the difference between men and non-androphilic tranwomen at 0.06 which is tiny.  And similarly, when we compare between women and androphilic transwomen it is only 0.07 which again is very tiny.  That is to say, these statistical tests shows that the difference between men and women is the same size as between non-androphilic and androphilic transwomen, while there is effectly no difference between men & non-androphilic and women & androphilic transwomen respectively.  That is to say, that non-androphilic transwomen are identical to men in general, while androphilic transwomen are essentially the same as women in general.  Further the difference between the two types of transwomen exactly matches the difference between men and women, which strongly supports the Two Type Taxonomy.)

Further Reading:

Autism and Transgender


Jones, et Al, “Female-To-Male Transsexual People and Autistic Traits”, J. Autism Dev. Discord. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-011-1227-8

Annelou L. C. de Vries, Ilse L. J. Noens, Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis, Ina A. van Berckelaer-Onnes. Theo A. Doreleijers, “Autism Spectrum Disorders in Gender Dysphoric Children and Adolescents” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (2010)



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