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I've wondered the same thing about the "autism spectrum" which I gather is falling into disuse for precisely this reason.

Degrees of heart impairment, insulin resistance, or even depression can be quantified (poorly in the latter case, to be sure.) Applying this to "I feel feminine today teehee" is ... peculiar.

For the autism spectrum there are specific traits that apply to individual autistics in varying degrees. Such things are for example social impairment, sensory issues, motor issues, restricted interests and so on. Like, one autistic person might have very severe sensory issues but good motor skills while another one might have the opposite. That makes the spectrum make sense

You can't apply that to sex though. What female or male "traits" would there be that apply to varying degrees

Thanks - I appreciate this, I wasn't aware.

One of the issues that comes up in qualitative research, where there isn't a clear cut "your cholesterol is X" sort of standard, is inter-coder reliability. So if two researchers are assessing the same interview to see if the same indicators come up, do they independently end up assigning similar scores, etc.

Do you happen to know, is autism usually diagnosed fairly consistently, in terms of two competent therapists could evaluate the same patient and come up with similar assessments? I now with "gender identity" it seems extraordinarily subjective, and based upon self-reports that are easy to fabricate.

(I don't mean to draw an analogy with fabrication for people with aspects of ASD, I don't think that happens, but we know if does with gender identity.)

At least in my country the autism test seems pretty thorough and I would expect it to be pretty consistent. There are multiple tests you take where you answer questions and get numeric scores. Then multiple interviews with different people. In my case, first a school nurse, then a nurse specialized on mental health, then a psychiatrist, then a psychologist. They also interview parents, look through school records and teacher feedback and medical records since childhood.

After diagnosis I was also put in a group with 5 other newly diagnosed autistics and 2 occupational therapists where we talked about what autism is, how it impacts us and how all the traits apply to us. There were six 90 minute meetings to discuss and make sure we all properly understand and are comfortable with our diagnosis and to adress any potential concerns or questions about why we were diagnosed.

The issue is of course that there is no clear blood test or anything you can take that 100% guarantees correct diagnosis. With autism diagnosis there is always some room of interpretation that is up to the professional. But I think that the fact that so many professionals are involved in the process might mitigate inaccuracy to a certain degree