Lecture to focus on the relationship between gender diversity and autism

UC Davis MIND Institute’s popular lecture series to feature John Strang of Children’s National Hospital


A March 13 lecture at the UC Davis MIND Institute will explore the connection between gender diversity and autism. The talk by John Strang, a pediatric neuropsychologist at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., is part of the MIND Institute’s popular Distinguished Lecturer Series.

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The Distinguished Lecturer Series is presented by the UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento.

Strang is the director of the Gender and Autism Program at Children’s National Hospital. It provides care for gender diverse youth who are neurodivergent — including those with autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions — and support for their families. Strang is also director of research for the Children’s National Gender Development Program and an associate professor of neurology, pediatrics and psychiatry at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Strang’s talk, “The Common Intersection of Gender Diversity and Autism: Listening to Autistic People about Gender,” starts at 4:30 p.m. at the MIND Institute, located at 2825 50th St. in Sacramento. The event is free and open to all. No reservations are needed, and seating is first come, first served.

Strang, who is also a faculty member of the Global Education Institute for the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, shares more about his upcoming talk in this Q&A.

What is the main focus of your lecture?

A man with brown hair wearing a dark suit jacket, gray shirt and burgundy tie smiles for a portrait.
John Strang of Children’s National Hospital will speak at the UC Davis MIND Institute on March 13.

Many young people experience their gender as different than their assigned gender at birth. Interestingly, autism tends to overlap with gender diversity at higher rates. This talk will explore the common intersection of autism and gender diversity. Topics will include how we diagnose autism in gender diverse youth, decisions around care, and the inner experiences of autistic transgender youth.

What do you most hope people will learn from your talk?

Intersectional autism and gender diversity reflect the natural contours of human diversity. Clinicians who work with gender diverse or autistic populations will certainly encounter young people at this intersection. Even for those who do not work with these individuals, the common overlap may be of interest as it gives a window into gender experience without the overlay of neurotypical social gender expectations.

Why did you decide to study the relationship between gender diversity and autism?

This work grew out of a clinical need. When I started, very few people were providing supports and care. I’ve been interested in supporting the whole person — neurodivergence-related needs and gender-related needs. That is what led to the founding of the Gender and Autism Program at Children’s National.

Your talk title includes, “listening to autistic people about gender.” Can you explain what you mean by that?

So many conversations about autism and gender diversity overlap start with questions about clinical concern or risk. Yet, I’ve found the autistic transgender community to be vibrant and resilient. When I think of the young people I work with, the first word that comes to mind is “joy.” There is much to be learned about both autism and gender from the perspectives of people at the intersection of autism and gender diversity. I’m excited to share some of the insights I’ve gained from the community.

What are you looking forward to during your visit to the MIND Institute?

The MIND Institute’s openness to progressive topics in the field of autism is an inspiration. I’m looking forward to deep conversations about this important topic for both autism and gender communities. I’m also looking forward to having a chance to work in person with Christine Wu Nordahl and Joshua Lee, who are spearheading important work in this space in the Nordahl Lab.

UC Davis MIND Institute Distinguished Lecturer Series

When: Wednesday, March 13 at 4:30 p.m.
Who: John Strang - Children's National Hospital
Talk Title: "The Common Intersection of Gender Diversity and Autism: Listening to Autistic People About Gender"
Where: UC Davis MIND Institute Auditorium, 2825 50th St., Sacramento

All lectures are free and open to the public.No reservations needed.
Seating is available on a first come, first served basis.
Presentations are intended for both professionals and community members.

The UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif. is a unique, interdisciplinary research, clinical, and education center committed to deepening scientific understanding of autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions. It is a highly collaborative center, bringing together families, researchers, clinicians, community leaders and volunteers with the common goal of developing more personalized, equitable, and scientifically proven systems of support and intervention. The institute has major research efforts in autism, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Down syndrome. More information about the institute and its Distinguished Lecturer Series, including previous presentations in this series, is available on the Web at mindinstitute.ucdavis.edu.