WHO removes classification of transgenderism as a mental illness

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday that identifying as transgender will no longer be classified as a mental illness in the new International Classification for Diseases (ICD).

The WHO, which is the health body of the United Nations, recategorised “gender incongruence” from being considered a condition relating to “mental, behavioural and neurodevelopmental disorders” to a condition “related to sexual health”.

The organisation explained this move saying that “evidence is now clear that it is not a mental disorder, and indeed classifying it in this manner can cause enormous stigma for people who are transgender.”

Dr Lale Say, coordinator of the adolescents and at-risk populations team at the WHO, said that the decision to reclassify transgenderism was made based on the advocacy and feedback from concerned communities and advocacy groups as well the reviewing of scientific evidence by an external advisory group.

The new ICD-11 is due to be submitted to the World Health Assembly in May 2019 for approval and will come into effect in January 2022.

The WHO describes transgenderism as being “characterised by a marked and persistent incongruence between an individual’s experienced gender and the assigned sex.” 

The organisation did say, however, that transgenderism cannot be assigned prior to the puberty stage because “gender variant behaviour and preferences alone are not a basis for assigning the diagnosis.”

In an interview with teleSUR, Nua Fuentes, a trans-feminist activist, and spokesperson for the Trans Pride World platform said: “It is positive, but it is nothing new. Trans organisations were expecting this, and we have been demanding the end of the pathologisation of our identities since 2007.”

Advocacy group, Transgender Europe in a statement called the reclassification “a historic achievement the global trans community has been fighting for over many years.”

“It is hoped that this shift will continue to give access to gender-affirming care while also ending a long history of so-called ‘conversion therapies,’ forced medicalisation, forced hospitalisation, and forced sterilisation for trans and gender diverse people.” 


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