Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Wayne, Martino

2nd Supervisor

Lenyell, Marguerite



Those who are both autistic and transgender/gender diverse, an often-overlooked group, face difficulties accessing gender-affirming care and appropriate therapy and have higher rates of mental health complications. This study focused on listening to the voices of people who live with both of these identities through semi-structured interviewing and by centring the writer who is also autistic and transgender. Seven participants shared their experiences and highlighted issues they have come up against while trying to access care. Thematic analysis revealed several themes that were sorted into barriers and strengths. Barriers included autism symptoms, complex medical factors, interactions with institutions, traumatic events, and lack of representation. Strengths that were identified were personal gender expression, connection to community, and openness to experience. This study helped gain a better understanding of the intersection between autism and transgender identity which can be used to increase the efficacy of further research and gender-affirming mental health practices.

Summary for Lay Audience

Autistic people are more likely to be transgender, which means having a gender identity that is different than the sex you are assigned at birth. Research is unclear about why this is a common occurrence but due to the stigma around autism and being transgender, many of those who hold both identities are not centred in research about themselves. There are many barriers to accessing the care trans–autistic people need, and there are also increased mental health risks due to mistreatment. The purpose of this paper is not to try and figure out why this connection exists but to understand how it affects the everyday lives of people in this intersection and how this can inform mental health care. Overall, this study conducted in-depth interviews with seven people who were both transgender and autistic and identified many themes they had in common. Some of the barriers identified were managing their autistic symptoms, additional medical needs, issues interacting with health care professionals, traumatic events such as abuse, and lack of representation in media and education. These were all issues that the participants dealt with, and they made accessing care that aided in transitioning their gender much more difficult. However, there was not just a focus on the barriers, this study also discussed the strengths and positive aspects that come out of being autistic and transgender as well. Some strengths include having the freedom to have a creative gender expression, a deep connection to community, and the openness to be themselves and accept others. This study helped gain a better understanding of how autistic and transgender identity interact which can be used to inform training to better prepare therapists to work with transgender and autistic clients.