The World Health Organization no longer considers being transgender to be a mental health issue. In the most recent edition of the International Classification of Diseases, “gender identity disorders” are now classified as “gender incongruence” and can now be found in the chapter referencing sexual health and not "mental disorders."
"It was taken out from mental health disorders because we had a better understanding that this was not actually a mental health condition, and leaving it there was causing stigma." said Dr. Lale Say, a WHO reproductive health expert. "So in order to reduce the stigma while also ensuring access to necessary health interventions, this was placed in a different chapter." She defined gender incongruence as "a marked and persistent incongruence between a person's experienced gender and assigned sex."
The move was done to help improve the social acceptance of transgender individuals while still providing crucial health resources, CNN reports. "The WHO’s removal of ‘gender identity disorder’ from its diagnostic manual will have a liberating effect on transgender people worldwide,” said Graeme Reid, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Governments should swiftly reform national medical systems and laws that require this now officially outdated diagnosis."
Julia Ehrt, Executive Director of Transgender Europe told CNN that this change of classification has been the result of tireless work by advocates and allies. "This is the result of tremendous effort by trans and gender diverse activists from around the world to insist on our humanity, and I am elated that the WHO agrees that gender identity is not a mental illness," she stated.
The new classification will help reduce the stigma surrounding being transgender, something Kyle Knight, a researcher in the LGBT rights program at Human Rights Watch, told TIME was incredibly important.“When you have a system that sets up someone’s very existence and identity in a diagnosis as a mental health condition, that feeds an enormous amount of stigma and drives people away,” he said. “We have interviewed transgender people in Japan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Indonesia to name a few countries, and they don’t even want to begin to undergo the process of legal recognition because it requires them to go see a psychiatrist who will tell them they have a so-called mental disorder; something that they don’t feel corresponds with their own reality. People don’t feel like their gender identity is something diagnosable or needs a diagnosis.”
Countries have until January 2022 to implement this new change.