Funded by: Public Health Agency NI (£208,646)

About the Project

The number of people referred to the Gender Identity Service in Northern Ireland has increased exponentially in the last five years. However, a striking proportion of the referrals to gender identity services for young people appear to have Autism.

The reasons for this remain unclear, presenting a gap in our knowledge and reducing our ability to offer more effective treatments.

The need to better understand the needs and develop responsive, person-centred services for both Autism and gender dysphoria patients has been acknowledged by government, and by clinicians. However, this is a complex area, requiring improved clinical pathways, skills and knowledge, and flexible treatment options. Patients with these conditions, separately or in combination, experience considerable psychological and social difficulties and may not be able to access professional health care.

Thus, there is a need to understand the social and psychological factors associated with this phenomenon, the referral pathways, decision-making processes and mental health outcomes for individuals with gender dysphoria. The study’s findings will be of benefit to service users and families and will inform the development of person-centred gender identity services in NI and elsewhere.

Project Aims

The overall aim of this project is to undertake a mixed methods study that will inform the delivery of services and to help develop the need for therapeutic interventions for people with Autism/ autism traits and gender dysphoria.

The key objectives are:

  • To examine the international epidemiological evidence on (a) the prevalence of co- existing Autism/ autism traits and gender dysphoria; (b) service provision and therapeutic interventions for people with Autism/ autism traits and gender dysphoria.
  • To determine the prevalence of combined Autism/ autism traits and gender dysphoria in a clinical population.
  • To examine the pathways to access referral to specialist gender services and treatment, including decision-making processes and the enablers and barriers to care.
  • To examine possible differences in process and outcomes of treatment for people in specialist gender services with and without Autism/ autism traits.