1 Aug 2016

World Health Organisation looking to drop transgender identity as mental disorder

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is considering declassifying transgender identity as a mental disorder in its global list of medical conditions.

The declassification may be implemented for the next edition of the WHO codebook, called the International Classification of Diseases, released in May 2018.

The handbook, which outlines categorisation and treatment of diseases, is used globally. So far, the move to reclassify transgender has been approved by every committee that has considered it.

“The intention is to reduce barriers to care,” Geoffrey Reed, a psychologist who is coordinating mental health disorders section in the upcoming edition, told the New York Times. Dr Reed said the move has not received opposition from WHO.

Declassifying transgender as a mental health disorder is heralded as a positive step towards acceptance by activists, advocates and mental health professionals.

“It’s sending a very strong message that the rest of the world is no longer considering it a mental disorder,” said Dr. Michael First, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and the chief technical consultant to the new edition of the codebook. “One of the benefits of moving it out of the mental disorder section is trying to reduce stigma.”

However, the existing proposal does not remove transgender from the book altogether, but instead moves it into a newly created category labelled  “conditions related to sexual health.”

Some activists and health professionals have voiced concern over labelling transgender identity as such and have also disputed the terminology.