‘I don’t feel like a gender, I feel like myself’: Autistic individuals raised as girls exploring gender identity

Marianthi Kourti, Andrea MacLeod

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Background: This paper addresses a gap in current research by considering perceptions of gender within autistic adults raised as girls.
Method: We report on an online focus group, in which twenty-one individuals who had been raised as girls discussed their gender identities. This discussion was part of a larger study, involving forty-three participants from eight countries. An emancipatory approach was employed, so that participants set their own agenda, thereby highlighting directly that gender identity was significant for them. The discussion was open for two weeks, following which the transcript was analysed using Applied Thematic Analysis.
Results: Participants reported not identifying with typical presentations of the female gender for a variety of reasons, linked both to autism and to socio-cultural expectations. Participants described childhoods of being a tomboy or wanting to be a boy, having difficulties conforming to gender-based social expectations and powerful identifications with their personal interests.
Conclusions: Consideration is given to the ways in which autistic individuals conform to, or resist, gendered roles, as well as the implications for identity formation within autistic individuals raised as girls. The innovative emancipatory design proved effective in giving voice to a group who have had little presence within the academic and medical communities and, through its use of online platforms, in engaging a large and internationally-based participant sample. This paper highlights both the importance of approaching autism from an intersectional perspective that takes greater account of context, and the unique contributions that autistic individuals can make to current understandings within autism research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
JournalAutism in Adulthood
Issue number1
Early online date18 Apr 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Apr 2018


  • autism
  • emancipatory research
  • gender
  • female


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