A scoping review examining social and legal gender affirmation and health among transgender populations


Purpose: Transgender (trans) populations experience health inequities. Gender affirmation refers to psychological, social, legal, and medical validation of one’s gender and is a key social determinant of trans health. The majority of research has focused on medical affirmation; however, less is known about the role of social and legal affirmation in shaping trans health. This review aimed to (1) examine how social and legal gender affirmation have been defined and operationalized and (2) evaluate the association between these forms of gender affirmation and health outcomes among trans populations in the United States. Methods: We conducted a systematic search of LGBT Life, PsycInfo, and PubMed using search strings targeting transgender populations and gender affirmation. This review includes 24 of those articles as well as 1 article retrieved through hand searching. We used a modified version of the National Institute of Health Quality Assessment Tool to evaluate study quality. Results: All studies relied on cross-sectional data. Studies measured and operationalized social and legal gender affirmation inconsistently, and some measures conflated social gender affirmation with other constructs. Health outcomes related to mental health, HIV, smoking, and health care utilization, and studies reported mixed results regarding both social and legal gender affirmation. The majority of studies had serious methodological limitations. Conclusion: Despite conceptual and methodological limitations, social and legal gender affirmation were related to several health outcomes. Study findings can be used to develop valid and reliable measures of these constructs to support future multilevel interventions that improve the health of trans communities.


King WM, Gamarel KE




  • Epidemiology and Determinants of Health
    • Determinants of Health
  • Determinants of Health
    • Social support
    • Health services
    • Stigma/discrimination
  • Population(s)
    • Transgender communities
    • General HIV+ population
    • General HIV- population
  • Substance Use
    • Tobacco
  • Mental Health
    • Depression
    • Psychiatric disorders


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