LGBTQ+ Pride Month

The World Health Organization No Longer Considers Being Transgender A Mental Disorder

"I think that sends a message to a lot of countries across the globe."

The World Health Organization announced it will remove gender incongruence from mental disorders in the 11th International Classification of Disease (ICD-11), reflecting a medical consensus that transgender people do not have a mental disorder. 

Now, the WHO will classify gender incongruence under sexual health conditions, a move that the organization hopes will ensure transgender people can receive the medical health care they need, absent the stigma that comes with mental health disorders. In its announcement, the WHO said the "evidence is now clear that it is not a mental disorder."

Recommended

"I think the most significant piece of this is that a lot of transgender people are in a world where they are not supported," Dru Levasseur, a senior attorney and director of the Transgender Rights Project, told A Plus. "To have an international body say that we recognize transgender people as part of the natural spectrum of human beings and this is part of sexual health, to take that step, it sends the message around that there is nothing wrong with you."

The WHO's announcement won't immediately impact court cases or health care in the United States, but it has the potential to create deep and meaningful long-term changes to how transgender people are treated by the law and by health care companies. Currently, health care companies in the United States work off of the fifth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), which Levasseur says is the "health care bible" in the states. His hope is that the DC-11 re-classification will influence the DSM-6, a version that is being worked on now.

In 2012, the American Psychiatric Association approved the DSM-5, which revised the term "gender identity disorder" to Gender Dysphoria, a move it similarly said would de-stigmatize transgender people while also providing them the medical grounds to qualify for treatment. For years, anti-trans laws, political organizations and people have used the "mental disorder" descriptor to attack transgender people, or claim they are unfit to be parents, work or serve in the military. 

For some transgender people outside the United States, the WHO announcement is even more significant. Many countries don't recognize transgender people or outright attack, imprison or marginalize them. Others, like religious groups, try to "fix" them with conversion or reparative therapies. But now transgender people can point to the WHO's decision as hard evidence that they are not mentally ill. 

"I think that sends a message to a lot of countries across the globe who are still not recognizing that transgender people exist," Levasseur said.

Max Masure, co-founder of Argo Collective.  Marine Lécroart  /  http://www.marinelecroart.com/

Max Masure, the co-founder of Argo Collective, an organization that helps to train companies to be more inclusive, told A Plus in an email that this could be a first step towards giving transgender and nonbinary people basic rights. 

"As being transgender is currently classified a mental disorder, it reifies people's beliefs that there is something wrong with you if you are trans," Masure said. "So transgender identities no longer labeled a disorder would definitely substantiate the reality that there is nothing wrong with you, you are OK just the way you are."

Cover image via Michael Moloney / Shutterstock.com.

GET SOME POSITIVITY IN YOUR INBOX

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.