Updated: Jun 15
by Katherine Greene, Evolve Coaching Intern
Happy Pride month, everyone!
Something that scientists, activists, and Autistic people have begun to discuss online is the seeming correlation between being Autistic and being LGBTQIA+.
According to the University of Cambridge’s Autism Research Center, transgender and gender diverse adults are three to six times more likely than their cisgender peers to be diagnosed as autistic. One study by John Strang of the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. looked at it from the other direction. Strang investigated gender identity in a sample pool of Autistic youth, and found that the kids in question were 7.59 times more likely than the general population to express what he called “gender variance.” Eileen Crehan of Tufts University notes that, among Autistic people, “Most of the data that we’re seeing is that [the LGBTQIA+ rate] is two to three times higher.”
For those of us who are LGBTQIA+, are Autistic, have Autistic or LGBTQIA+ loved ones, or are just curious, this raises the question: what’s behind this correlation? A quick and dirty analysis of the available literature reveals two schools of thought.
One school of thought proposes that similar genetic factors and/or in-utero hormone exposure are connected to both autism and being LGBTQIA+. However, this is a new area of study and the evidence linking autism and being LGBTQIA+ to these factors is sparse.
The other school of thought leans less heavily on the assumption that autistic people are more likely to be LGBTQIA+ and instead speculates that Autistic people might just be more likely to be out. As the Asperger/Autism Network (AANE) describes it, “Individuals on the Autism spectrum tend to be less influenced by or responsive to societal expectations or constraints…This natural inclination to be oneself and not follow the crowd or societal norms, seems to correlate with a higher than average incidence of individuals on the spectrum having greater variance and flexibility in the areas of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.” However, it’s important to keep in mind that this idea is only speculation at this point.
Regardless of the links scientists may discover in the coming years, we at Evolve hope you’ve been enjoying pride month!
Here’s some further reading on the topic: