The W.H.O (World Health Organisation) are making moves towards declassifying transgender identity as a mental disorder in its global list of medical conditions.
This change is still under review for the next edition of the W.H.O codebook, but it has been so far approved by each committee that has considered it.
Geoffrey Reed, a psychologist who is coordinating the mental health and behavior disorders section in the upcoming edition of the codebook, said that the “intention is to reduce barriers to care”.
These potential changes are being helped along by a new study by Dr. Reed, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He said that the proposal to remove transgender identity from the mental disorder category is “not getting opposition from W.H.O.”.
According to mental health care professionals, removing the mental health label from transgender identity will be a powerful symbol of acceptance.
Dr. Michael First, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and the chief technical consultant to the new edition of the codebook, said: “It’s sending a very strong message that the rest of the world is no longer considering it a mental disorder. One of the benefits of moving it out of the mental disorder section is trying to reduce stigma.”
There are some changes to the codebook that are still the subject of debate, however. For example, the proposal will not simply remove transgender from the codebook entirely, but instead place it in a new category: “Conditions related to sexual health.”
Dr. Griet De Cuypere, a psychiatrist at the Center of Sexology and Gender at University Hospital in Ghent, spoke out in criticism of this plan: “I think there is a bit of a problem with the idea of putting it in a chapter on sexual health because it has nothing to do with sex. If it’s possible to have it more separately, it would be better.”
There also proposals floating around that suggest a change from the name “transsexualism” to “gender incongruence”, which has been chosen to descirbe “a discrepancy between a person’s experienced gender identity and their body”.
So while things are not certain, it does seem that a positive move is still being made to declassify transgender identity as a mental health condition.
However, there are problems with language variations with this choice. In Spanish, for example, “incongruence” is written as “gender discordance”. Dr. Reed said “in English it sounds really bad.”
“The terminology is difficult because nobody likes anything. People have made suggestions that have been all over the map. One of the people at one of the meetings said we could call this happy unicorns dancing by the edge of the stream and there’d be an objection to it.”