Gender Identity Stigma in Transgender Women Is Higher After Gender-Affirming Vaginoplasty

Lydia A. Fein, Rebecca Barnett, Tianhao Liu, Jo Nell E. Potter, Nichole R. Klatt, Maria L. Alcaide, Deborah L. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Gender affirmation may reduce stigma and gender-based discrimination that drive increased behaviors that can lead to HIV in transgender women (TW). For many TW, vaginoplasty is gender affirming, yet has not been previously evaluated with regard to likelihood of HIV. This pilot study of TW aimed to evaluate the influence of gender-affirming vaginoplasty on stigma and the drivers of HIV acquisition. Adult TW without HIV were recruited. Interviewer-administered surveys were used to assess demographics, gender identity stigma, psychosocial factors, importance of and satisfaction with gender affirmation, and behaviors that increase the likelihood of HIV in TW who had either undergone gender-affirming vaginoplasty (TWWV) or who had not (TWWOV). Statistical analysis was conducted using descriptive statistics, Fisher's exact tests, and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests. Thirty TW without HIV (19-83 years old) participated (TWWV = 10; TWWOV = 20). The majority identified with ethnic minority groups (n = 21, 70%) and on gender-affirming hormone therapy (n = 25, 83%). Gender identity stigma (38.0; 32.15, p = .03) and social oppression (53.6; 39.4, p = .05) scores were significantly higher among TWWV compared with TWWOV. Satisfaction with body (3.10; 1.95, p = .01), appearance (3.10; 2.10, p = .02), and femininity (3.40; 2.25, p = .001) were higher among TWWV than TWWOV. Present (n = 8, 27%) and past (n = 16, 53%) survival sex work, multiple sex partners (n = 16, 53%), and receptive condomless anal intercourse (n = 10, 33%) were reported but did not vary significantly between groups. Behaviors that may lead to HIV acquisition and their underlying drivers, including gender identity stigma, are present after gender-affirming vaginoplasty. As this procedure continues to increase among TW, interventions to mitigate chances of HIV acquisition are critically needed in this population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-383
Number of pages8
JournalAIDS Research and Human Retroviruses
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 17 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright 2023, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.


  • HIV
  • gender-affirming vaginoplasty
  • stigma
  • transgender


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