Thick trust, thin trust, social capital, and health outcomes among trans women of color in New York City

Sel J. Hwahng, Bennett Allen, Cathy Zadoretzky, Hannah Barber Doucet, Courtney McKnight, Don Des Jarlais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Many trans women of color communities experience high HIV seroprevalence, extreme poverty, high rates of victimization and substance use, and poor mental health. Greater knowledge of trans women of color social capital may contribute toward more effective services for this marginalized population. Methods: These data come from a mixed-methods study that examined trans/gender-variant people of color who attended transgender support groups at harm reduction programs in NYC. The study was conducted from 2011 to 12, total N = 34. The qualitative portion was derived from six focus group interviews. Results: Two support groups stood out as exhibiting very strong alternative kinship structures. One group was comprised of immigrant trans Latinas, and the other group were trans women of African descent living with HIV. Both groups demonstrated ample cultivation of “trust capital” in the form of “thick trust” (bonding capital) and “thin trust” (bridging/linking capital) both inside and outside/beyond the support groups. Thick trust included the cultivation of intimacy, support in primary romantic relationships, and community leadership. Thin trust included networking with a variety of organizations, increased educational opportunities, and cultural production. Discussion: Participants “opened up to social capital” through the process of trusting as a series of (1) risks; (2) vulnerabilities; and (3) reciprocities. A solid foundation of thick trust resulted in a social, psychological, and emotional “base.” Upon this foundation, thin trust was operationalized resulting in positive material, economic, and quality-of-life outcomes, leading to an expanded space of capabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-231
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Transgender Health
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2022


  • USA
  • health outcome
  • resilience
  • social capital
  • social trust
  • trans women
  • women of color

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Gender Studies


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