Gender dysphoria (GD) and gender incongruence are diagnostic terms used to describe the psychological distress and confusion of having to behave in gendered ways, in all aspects of life, in a body, whose sex was assigned at birth, that may be incompatible with their gender identity. This revolves around the issue of gender identity not sexual preference.

Thankfully, this is an area of rapidly increasingly enlightenment across all areas of society, meaning more and more people are able to live authentically, for example, as transgender, gender fluid, non-binary. There is still a long way to go to de-stigmatise, as with autism and ADHD, but education and acceptance is improving all the time.

An example of this is in the diagnostic manual, the ICD-11, used as a reference by medical professionals worldwide. This updated version has removed the diagnostic term of gender dysphoria, as a mental health disorder, and replaced it with the term gender incongruence, also moving it to a different category called ‘sexual health’. The aim of this is to improve people’s access to appropriate (gender-affirmative) healthcare, including surgical transitioning, and to reduce stigmatism. The United States’ diagnostic manual, the DSM-5-TR, continues to use the term gender dysphoria.

For reasons that are still being researched, the number of autistics and ADHDers who experience gender dysphoria is widely reported to be higher than that in the wider population.

Wenn Lawson, autistic advocate, writer and psychologist, believes that autistics’ straightforwardness, our common need for honesty, combined with a lack of awareness/understanding/concern for societal traditions, are big contributors for those of us questioning our gender identities. Hence, it may not be that there are greater numbers of autistic people that experience gender dysphoria, it may be as simple as us not being as constrained by cultural and social norms as non-autistic people.

For those autistic people with personal independence and/or supportive family and friends, this should translate into a perk for us. It may also be that we are so used to feeling outsiders anyway, that embracing a change of gender identity is less of a leap for us than those who are used to being accepted. Hang fire… I have a reputation for being idealistic…We do need to consider the very real negative impact of intersectionality before we get too delirious with the taste of freedom.

Click here for an interesting article from Wenn Lawson, where he also warns of the additional barriers that autistic people face as they begin exploring their gender identities.