This month's blog article was featured in the June 2024 issue of our digital newsletter, Aspire Wire. 

By Jill Dyment, MEd, CAGS
Manager, Child and Parent Services

The intersection between the autistic community and the LGBTQ+ community is increasingly documented. Research and personal accounts are now commonly shared confirming and celebrating experiences of individuals that embrace both identities. A 2020 study found that individuals who do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth are 3-6 times more likely to be autistic (Warrier V. et al., 2020). A more recent analysis of available studies estimates that 11% of transgender and gender diverse individuals are autistic (Kallistsounaki and Williams 2022). Another study indicates that in the United States, 6.5% of autistic adolescents and 11.4% of autistic adults said they wished to be the gender opposite of what they had been assigned at birth, compared to just 3-5% of the general population (van der Miesen, 2018).

Some autistics have shared a concern that being on the spectrum delayed their recognition of their own LGBTQ+ identity because of the intense focus on social skills instruction and thinking about others. So, how do we make space to support the identity development of our loved ones and the individuals in our care? First, raising strong, self-aware children who are free to explore their own identities means making intentional choices as parents, caregivers, providers, and teachers to go ‘beyond the binary’ that our culture is so entrenched in. Through our language, choices and actions, we can show our children the entire spectrum of humanity. This may mean moving outside our comfort zones to make sure our children see representation from various communities and identities, so they know; You are important, you are celebrated, and you are loved, exactly the way you are!

Listed below are additional ways you can go ‘beyond the binary’ to support the identity development and self-awareness of children and teens in your care.

  • Stand firmly in the belief that autistic individuals (of all ages) can and should tell the world who they are.
  • Acknowledge that your experience, and the way you experience the world, is not the same for all. Do not treat people the way you want to be treated. Treat people the way they want to be treated. (And if you do not know, ask!)
  • Take notice of gender stereotypes OUT LOUD. “Wow, this store really tries to split the toys up by gender. I wonder why they do that. Toys don’t have genders! Good thing we know we can shop in any aisle!”
  • Seek out books and shows with a diverse range of characters, including those that are neurodivergent and/or gender diverse. Read about different life experiences and talk about it with your children.
  • Do you take your child or teen shopping? Make sure you show them a variety of stores and a variety of sections.  Listen to their preferences.
  • Take note of unnecessary genderized language (hint: most of it is unnecessary). Make an effort to shift to gender neutral language.  Model gender neutral language for your child or teen and for others. (“That bunny is really running fast.  I wonder where they are going!” or “I saw you talking with a new friend.  What is their name?”)
  • Normalize sharing your pronouns so others feel comfortable sharing pronouns with you.

Intersections of the autism spectrum and the gender spectrum are becoming more and more visible.  With that, we must consider how we support both identities for those in our care.  While important, we must not let ‘thinking about others’ overshadow the importance of self-awareness and identity exploration.  We can and we must do both. We can help our loved ones and students build social competency, while also building a strong and proud sense of self.



  1. Warrier V. et al. Nat. Commun. 11, 3959 (2020) PubMed
  2. Kallitsounaki  A, Williams  DM. Autism spectrum disorder and gender dysphoria/incongruence. A systematic literature review and meta-analysis. J Autism Dev Disord. 2022.  PubMed 
  3. van der Miesen A.I.R. et al. Arch. Sex. Behav. 47, 2307-2317 (2018) PubMed