Autism and the Third Gender Presentation

The below presentation has been prepared by Lydia Andal.

On Friday 1st July 2016 I delivered a talk at The Autism Show, Event city, Manchester, UK entitled:

‘Autism and the Third Gender: Are autistic people more likely to explore gender identity?’

This page provides links to the research, news and other items discussed within the talk for those who attended, those who couldn’t make it and those with a general interest in Autism and the Third Gender.

This talk was surprisingly busy considering the niche topic – thank you to all who attended.

Special thanks to Russell Stronach/Autistic UK – The Autistic People’s Organisation run by Autistic People for Autistic People. You can join for free here.

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Below is a link to the presentation on SlideShare, followed by some notes and links to the content discussed. It is recommended you read through the Additional Information section below to provide a better context to the slides and images in the presentation.

Click here to view in full size directly on the SlideShare site.

For those of you who can’t access the SlideShare presentation for any reason, the key information has been added below.

Please note the web version of this presentation has some minor edits for privacy and copyright reasons.

Key Presentation Points:

Recent Research Points to Correlation Between Autism & Differences in Gender Identity

The headline figure for this talk was that 50%+ of young people who attended the NHS Gender Clinic in London between 2011-2013 were identified as having autistic traits.

Here is a breakdown of the key research discussed:

  • Between 8-10% of children and adolescents seen at gender identity clinics around the world meet the clinical diagnostic criteria for autism.
  • Approx. 20% of these children have autistic traits such as impaired social and communication skills or intense focus and attention to detail.
  • Between 2011-2013 more than 50% of 166 young people referred to the London NHS Gender Identity Development Clinic had autistic traits.
  • Widely reported only 1% of the world’s population is autistic.

Here are links to the recent research:

What is the Third Gender?

If you ask three people what the Third Gender means, you will get three different responses.

Third Gender is generally used to mean those who are transgender, asexual, intersex or non-binary.


Most studies focus on those who report themselves as Transgender – those who have a gender identity, or gender expression, that differs from their birth gender.


Those who do not find people from any gender sexually attractive. Anecdotal research studies show a higher proportion of autistic people reporting themselves as Asexual as opposed to non-autistic people, possibly due to an autistic lack of preference for being touched.

A colleague of mine who works as a Sex therapist observed that many of his clients who report themselves as Asexual have strong autistic traits but they are unaware of this.


Those who are born with elements of both male and female genitalia.


Those who do not identify as either male or female. Those who identify with the third way – the third gender that sits in between the two. This is my personal area of interest and was the key focus of the talk.


Slide Six: ‘Living Between Genders: Ollie’s Story
Deborah Rudacille, University of Baltimore, April 2016′

During this slide I discussed ‘Ollie’s Story’ from the paper ‘Living between genders’ by Deborah Rudacille.

Ollie is a six year old Texan boy who is autistic and has been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder. Ollie enjoys dressing in girly clothes outside of the house, and you can read Ollie’s story as described by his mother in the original research paper here.

Slides Seven-Eleven: ‘Living Between Genders: My Story’

From Slide Seven onwards I discussed photos of my journey from childhood to adulthood living between genders.  The key theme is that I was ‘encouraged’ to wear dresses constantly as a young child and how completely inappropriate this was to my nature.

The photo of me on the climbing frame in Slide Eight is highlighting the complete incompatibility of dresses with climbing frames.

Slide Eleven highlights the difficulties I had at summer camp each year when the group leaders and children couldn’t work out whether I was a boy or a girl.

Note: The photos used in this slide are not taken from the actual summer camp, but are used for illustrative purposes.

Slide Twelve-Thirteen: ‘The Native American Two-Spirit’

At this point I discuss the concept of the Native American Two-Spirit as follows.

  • Two-Spirit is used by some Native Americans to describe gender-variant individuals in their communities.
  • In ancient Native American spirituality the world wasn’t simply divided into male and female the way it is in the Western world. Many Native American cultures held places of honour for people of integrated genders.
  • These people were well-respected and being Two-Spirited wasn’t limited to sexuality. Some tribes viewed Two-Spirits as having an ability to move between two worlds – the spiritual and the material.
  • Both male and female-bodied two-spirits have been documented in over 130 North American tribes.

I then discuss translations of different descriptions some Native American tribes used to describe gender.


Slide Nineteen: ‘Harper’s Hologram’

During this slide I discussed how the 12 year old character of ‘Harper’ in my first fiction book ‘Harper’s Hologram’, is somewhat ‘Two-Spirited’ in nature.

Harper as a character is very loosely inspired by some of my own experiences of being gender ambiguous when I was younger, and the book features the Native American character of Kiyaya – who is a non-verbal kindred spirit to Harper.

Interestingly, the key theme of the Harper’s Hologram is Harper’s quest to create a hologram so that she can ‘Move between worlds’ to contact her mother who recently passed away. Moving between worlds is something that is mentioned as being part of the Native American ‘Two-Spirit’ culture.

As an author, this point is interesting as although I had completed some research into Native American spirituality for the Kiyaya character whilst writing the book, I didn’t come across the concept of the Native American ‘Two-Spirit’ until I was preparing this presentation for The Autism Show – several months after Harper’s Hologram was published.

During the talk I then discussed my birth name ‘Niomi Dinah Christie’ and told an anecdote about the Biblical story of ‘Dinah’ who miraculously transformed from male to female in the womb just before birth.

This story is from Midrashic literature and here is the edited Wikipedia note:

‘One midrash states that Dinah was conceived as a male in Leah’s womb but miraculously changed to a female…(Berkahot 60a)’


Note: Harper’s Hologram is currently only available on limited digital release via Amazon Kindle, ahead of the full paperback release in 2017.

Slide Twenty-One – Resources

Here are the clickable links:

  • Sign up to the Am I Autistic? Newsletter here.
  • Download Being Autistic free here.
  • Read The Autism Issue of The New Idealist Magazine free here.
  • Watch the trailer for Harper’s Hologram at


Thank you for reading.


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