The lived experience of gender dysphoria in autistic young people

Cooper, K., Butler, C., Russell, A. et al. The lived experience of gender dysphoria in autistic young people: a phenomenological study with young people and their parentsEur Child Adolesc Psychiatry (2022).


Gender dysphoria is distress in relation to incongruence between an individual’s gender and sex assigned at birth. Gender clinics offer support for gender dysphoria, and there is a higher prevalence of autism in young people attending such clinics than in the general population. We aimed to investigate the lived experiences of autistic young people who have experienced gender dysphoria, and their parents, using a multi-perspectival IPA design. Young autistic people aged 13–17 years (n = 15), and their parents (n = 16), completed in-depth interviews about the young person’s experience of gender dysphoria. We analysed each individual transcript to generate individual themes, and for each of the dyads, developed themes which acknowledged the similarities and differences in parent–child perspectives. The first superordinate theme was coping with distress which had two subordinate themes; understanding difficult feelings and focus on alleviating distress with external support. This theme described how young people were overwhelmed by negative feelings which they came to understand as being about gender incongruence and looked to alleviate these feelings through a gender transition. The second superordinate theme was working out who I am which had two subordinate themes: the centrality of different identities and needs and thinking about gender. This theme described how young people and their parents focused on different needs; while young people more often focused on their gender-related needs, parents focused on autism-related needs. We conclude that young people and parents may have different perspectives and priorities when it comes to meeting the needs of autistic young people who experience gender dysphoria.

By J Pope

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