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Gender Affirmation: A Framework for Conceptualizing Risk Behavior Among Transgender Women of Color

Abstract

Experiences of stigma, discrimination, and violence as well as extreme health disparities and high rates of sexual risk behavior and substance use have been well-documented among transgender women of color. Using an intersectional approach and integrating prominent theories from stigma, eating disorders, and HIV-related research, this article offers a new framework for conceptualizing risk behavior among transgender women of color, specifically sexual risk behavior and risky body modification practices. This framework is centered on the concept of ‘gender affirmation,’ the process by which individuals are affirmed in their gender identity through social interactions. Qualitative data from 22 interviews with transgender women of color from the San Francisco Bay Area in the United States are analyzed and discussed in the context of the gender affirmation framework.

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Acknowledgments

The research described was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, Award #K08MH085566. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Mental Health or the National Institutes of Health. The author would like to express gratitude to Mallory O. Johnson, PhD, for his invaluable mentorship, to Angel Ventura for her skilled assistance, and to the participants for their courage, time, and candor.

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Correspondence to Jae M. Sevelius.

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Sevelius, J.M. Gender Affirmation: A Framework for Conceptualizing Risk Behavior Among Transgender Women of Color. Sex Roles 68, 675–689 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-012-0216-5

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Keywords

  • Transgender identity
  • Gender affirmation
  • Stigma
  • Race
  • Risk behavior
  • Sexuality