The autism connection


Is there a connection between those on the autism spectrum and those who experience gender dysphoria? The evidence mounts that there might be.

The following article prompted me to write this piece. The article doesn’t answer anything, but presents good information and asks important questions:

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I had my first significant experience with a person with ASD—autism spectrum disorder—as a pastor. A boy in our church was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. I had never before heard of this. Getting to know him, and studying about this condition, I found him to have classic signs. He was very intelligent and highly focused on single topics, with almost no social skills. That was 2001. Since then, I have had a lot of exposure to those, as they say, on the spectrum.

In 2015, I went to my first trans group meeting. I have now met dozens of people who identify as transgender. It wasn’t long before I was seeing trends. Because I had a relatively small sampling, it would be irresponsible for me to state things statistically; no, my evidence remains anecdotal. This doesn’t negate it. Indeed, anecdotal evidence often leads us to investigation, which leads us to facts.

The fact of the matter is that I noticed these things:

  • a greater than average number of the trans folks I was getting to know work in the computer field;
  • a greater than average number are left handed;
  • and a greater than average number appear to be on the autism spectrum.

One thing I found it to be in accord with what I already had learned is the way-above-average number of trans persons who were in the military. Those I know transitioned after serving. I have read studies which show one in five trans persons have served in the military, which is twice as great as the general population. Since this essay is supposed to be about autism, I’ll let that thought percolate as I go onto the next, which also will not be about autism.

I am not the only person who has noticed the trans/computer science connection. Also noted is a trans/math association. Search the internet. Enjoy the info you can find.

Looking for a tie between left handed and transgender, I find studies to be all over the map, and most encompass LGBTQ. This possible connection was noticed decades ago. Some studies show very highly elevated numbers of LGBTQ folks who are left handed. Other studies show not so much. Searching the reason why we even have left handed people—about one in ten are—and why isn’t the split around fifty/fifty, one finds that no one knows why some, and only a small percentage, are left handed.

We also don’t know what causes ASD. One guess regarding lefthandedness is that the endocrine system of the fetus was affected. We know this to be true regarding why a boy will develop an Adam’s Apple when he hits puberty. If the androgen processed properly while the fetus was forming, he will have an Adam’s apple. If not, he will not.

I don’t have an Adam’s apple.

I am left handed.

Enough about me.

The cause of ASD has not been identified. Much has been learned about the genetics of it, but it has not been specifically identified as has, say, Down Syndrome. Might ASD be a combination of genetics and hormones? Might it be started by endocrine disruption as the fetus forms?

We humans have many hormonal maladies. Two of them are terribly common. Diabetes is one of them. Hyperthyroidism is another. There are lots more. Hormones play a huge role in us. When they get messed up, the impact often is great.

Some transgender persons have an identifiable intersex condition. The one traced through history is hermaphroditism, that is, those persons with sex attributes of both male and female, and ambiguous genitals, which often cause a misidentification of a person. Now that we are able to identify chromosomes, we know that there are genetic intersex conditions. In all of the visible-to-the-eye intersex conditions, a person will not necessarily identify as transgender, or, better said, might not alter how they live from how they were identified at birth.

I have never had my chromosomes tested. Because I fathered children, I am highly doubtful that I have a genetic intersex condition. It seems to me that most folks who suffer gender dysphoria have no physically identifiable intersex condition. My years of study lead me to believe that disruption of the endocrine system could be behind most gender identity struggles, and that there is plenty of information regarding endocrine disruptors—chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and plasticizers—and the damage they have done which has been identified, to find it reasonable to think there could be a link to gender dysphoria.

It is debated whether there is more autism these days. The same goes for gender dysphoria. The questions are whether there is more, or that we simply identify it better, or that people are more open to revealing and sharing it?

Information is mounting that those on the autism spectrum are around ten times more likely to identify somewhere on the transgender spectrum. Is it genetic? Hormonal? Or is it not physical at all, but connected to how so many on the autism spectrum are not tied to social mores, freeing them to express themselves?

The important questions must be asked. It is only in the asking of questions that we find answers. Deep research has led us to discovering the cause of innumerable maladies, conditions, and diseases, which have led us to cures for some, effective treatments for many, and a fighting chance with most.

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Discovering causes also leads us to respect things. Forgive the way I say the following should I come off as crass as I return to the boy I met in 2001, the one who has Asperger Syndrome. I met him before I knew about the Asperger’s. I had just arrived in Port Hope. I went to lunch, to sit with the school kids and begin to get to know them, and them to get to know me.

I just happened to sit next to the boy in question. He quickly got my ear. Over the next twenty minutes, I learned everything I never knew about, if I recall correctly, rockets. At first, I was intrigued that this fifth-grader knew so much. Soon, I wanted him to stop. Finally, I found him rude. His behavior was the very definition of what, when I was a kid, we would label a weirdo. I was determined that the next time I came to lunch I would sit with other kids.

It wasn’t long before I was told about his Asperber’s. I immediately did my homework on the condition. And, equally immediately, the boy went from being someone who bugged me to a person I respected.

Knowledge, as they say, is power. Often, it is power to lead us to respect people—people of other colors, and other creeds, and other cultures, and, I dare insist, potentially of any “other” we might encounter.

Even transgender persons.

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This is a nice opening to the event I attended yesterday, where I was the trans person whom a group of healthcare professionals got to question, with the hope that increasing their knowledge might help them improve their care of trans individuals.

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