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WHO Removes Transgender Classification From List of Mental Disorders

World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland(Photo: Reuters)

On Monday, the World Health Organization announced that being transgender is no longer classified as a mental illness.

In a long anticipated move, the WHO has sent a very strong message by removing being transgender from the latest version of their International Classification for Diseases (ICD). According to a new report released by the WHO, gender incongruence has now been moved out of the list of mental disorders and into the list of sexual health conditions.

The WHO now confirms “the evidence is clear that it (being transgender) is not a mental disorder, and indeed classifying it in this (way) can cause enormous stigma for people who are transgender.” The organization says their decision to have gender incongruence listed as a sexual health condition is due to the fact that there are significant health needs within the transgender community that would be best met if the condition is coded under the ICD.

The decision to reboot the ICD for the 21st century was made in 2000 at the World Health Assembly. Until then, the ICD had been revised every decade or so (ICD-10 was released in 1990). The WHO has released this latest version, ICD-11 in anticipation to presenting it to the World Health Assembly in 2019 for adoption by countries.

The change has been anticipated for well over 2 years. Back in 2016, Senior ICD Author Professor Geoffrey Reed of the National Autonomous University of Mexico spoke about the reasons for the new changes in an interview with Science Daily, "Stigma associated with both mental disorder and transgender identity has contributed to the precarious legal status, human rights violations and barriers to appropriate care among transgender people,” Reed said. “The definition of transgender identity as a mental disorder has been misused to justify denial of health care and contributed to the perception that transgender people must be treated by psychiatric specialists, creating barriers to health care services. The definition has even been misused by some governments to deny self-determination and decision-making authority to transgender people in matters ranging from changing legal documents to child custody and reproduction."

Watch the interview below with Dr. Lale Say from the Department of Reproductive Health and Research at the World Health Organization.

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