World Health Organisation Takes Transgender Off Mental Disorders List

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The World Health Organisation has passed legislation which means being transgender will no longer be categorised as a mental health condition. 

I have to admit, I ignorantly assumed the link between being transgender and having a mental disorder had been abolished long ago – it certainly should have been.

Shockingly it has actually taken until 2019 for the World Health Organisation to remove transgender from their list of mental disorders, but thankfully the day has finally come.

On May 25 the World Health Assembly, the WHO governing body which represents 194 member states, approved the update to its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, a manual used globally to diagnose diseases.

The new diagnostic guidelines will no longer describe gender nonconformity as a mental disorder. It will reframe ‘gender identity disorders’ as ‘gender incongruence’, and move it from the mental disorders list to a chapter on sexual health.

Evolution in the scientific understanding of gender has been key in changing perceptions of those who identify as transgender, but the change is also thanks to numerous advocates and transgender activists around the world who have been speaking up for the lives of trans people.

Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch, spoke in a statement about the change to the list of mental disorders, explaining how it’s a positive step for the LGBTQ+ community.

He said:

The WHO’s removal of “gender identity disorder” from its diagnostic manual will have a liberating effect on transgender people worldwide. Governments should swiftly reform national medical systems and laws that require this now officially outdated diagnosis.

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Governments around the world were able to use the previous classification as the basis for discriminatory policies which required diagnosis and sometimes other medical procedures before transgender people could be recognised before the law.

Reid went on to say the discrimination trans people face is in part down to the classification of transgender as a mental disorder and pointed out how, in turn, the stigma can be the cause of suffering.

The LGBT rights director continued:

Transgender people are fighting stigma and discrimination that can be traced in part to medical systems that have historically diagnosed expressions of gender non-conformity as a mental pathology.

But it’s the stigma, discrimination, and bullying—and not anything inherent in gender nonconformity—that can inflict mental health problems in transgender people.

Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist whose work deals with sexuality and gender, added:

There is substantial evidence that the stigma associated with the intersection of transgender status and mental disorders contributes to precarious legal status, human rights violations and barriers to appropriate health care for this population.

The change to the mental disorders list is certainly a milestone for the LGBTQ+ community!

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