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Autistic Traits, Empathizing–Systemizing, and Gender Diversity

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Gareth RichardsORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Previous research indicates a link between autism and transgender and gender-diverse identities, though the association is not yet fully understood. The current study examined autistic traits (Autism Spectrum Quotient [AQ]), empathizing (Empathizing Quotient-Short [EQ-S]), and systemizing (Systemizing Quotient-Short [SQ-S]) in a sample of 89 adults and aimed to test whether gender diverse individuals exhibit cognitive profiles consistent with predictions derived from the Extreme Male Brain theory. As most research has considered only cisgender people, we recruited a more diverse sample by contacting >200 UK LGBT+ organizations and posting on social media. A range of non-cisgender identities (e.g., transgender male, transgender female, non-binary, genderqueer, transmasculine) and non-heterosexual orientations (e.g., homosexual, bisexual) were represented, and participants were categorized into one of four groups: (1) assigned female at birth but does not identify as female (transgender AFAB) (n = 32), (2) cisgender female (n = 21), (3) assigned male at birth but does not identify as male (transgender AMAB) (n = 18), and (4) cisgender male (n = 18). After controlling for age and autism diagnostic status, transgender AFAB participants had marginally higher AQ scores, and significantly higher SQ-S and systemizing-relative-to-empathizing (D) scores, compared with the cisgender female group. No such differences were detected between the transgender AMAB and cisgender male groups. Our findings are broadly in line with predictions derived from the Extreme Male Brain theory, though as no transgender AFAB participants reported being heterosexual, it was not possible to determine whether these effects relate specifically to gender identity, to sexual orientation, or to both.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hendriks O, Wei Y, Warrier V, Richards G

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Archives of Sexual Behavior

Year: 2022

Volume: 51

Pages: 2077-2089

Print publication date: 01/05/2022

Online publication date: 25/04/2022

Acceptance date: 25/11/2021

Date deposited: 26/11/2021

ISSN (print): 0004-0002

ISSN (electronic): 1573-2800

Publisher: Springer New York LLC


DOI: 10.1007/s10508-021-02251-x


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