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The quality and satisfaction of romantic relationships in transgender people: A systematic review of the literature

Marshall, Ellen; Glazebrook, Cris; Robbins-Cherry, Sally; Nicholson, Serge; Thorne, Nat; Arcelus, Jon


Ellen Marshall

Sally Robbins-Cherry

Serge Nicholson

Nat Thorne

Jon Arcelus


Introduction: Romantic relationships are often a significant area of individuals’ lives and can have a positive impact on wellbeing. There is often a belief within society of romantic relationships ending upon the start of gender affirming transition, however this is often not reflected within clinical work or research studies. Despite this, currently not enough is known about romantic relationships for transgender individuals and their partners, and the impact gender affirming transition can have on the quality and satisfaction of these relationships. Aim: To critically and systematically review the available literature examining quality and satisfaction of romantic relationships for transgender individuals and their partners. Methods: Using PRISMA guidelines, major databases (Pubmed, PsycINFO and Web of Science) and relevant reference lists were searched for suitable articles up to January 2020. Each included article was assessed for methodological quality and the demographic data, methods and findings linked to relationship quality and satisfaction was extracted for analysis. Results: From 151 potentially relevant articles, 14 studies (six quantitative, eight qualitative) were included within the review. Most studies displayed moderate risk of bias due to crosssectional designs and lack of reflexivity. Findings from quantitative studies suggest a bidirectional relationship between transition, relationship quality and satisfaction and wellbeing. Qualitative studies suggest transition can cause personal challenges for both transgender individuals and partners. Maintenance activities help buffer the impact of these challenges on relationship satisfaction and ensure positives are possible from relationships. Discussion: Gender affirming transition can impact on the quality and satisfaction of romantic relationships. Due to additional challenges transgender individuals and their partners may face, adequate support is required at personal, community and clinical level. There is a paucity of research in this area and current studies lack methodological rigour. Future research is essential to gain a further understanding of transgender relationships and the support required.


Marshall, E., Glazebrook, C., Robbins-Cherry, S., Nicholson, S., Thorne, N., & Arcelus, J. (2020). The quality and satisfaction of romantic relationships in transgender people: A systematic review of the literature. International Journal of Transgender Health, 21(4), 373-390.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 30, 2020
Online Publication Date Jul 21, 2020
Publication Date Jul 21, 2020
Deposit Date May 1, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jul 22, 2021
Journal International Journal of Transgender Health
Print ISSN 2689-5269
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 21
Issue 4
Pages 373-390
Keywords romantic relationships; systematic review; transgender; support; PRISMA
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope:; Published: 2020-07-21


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