The World Health Organization (WHO) has decreed that transgender people are not mentally ill, with the WHO’s legislative body voting to move the term used to describe transgender people – “gender incongruence” – to the panel’s sexual health chapter from its mental disorders chapter.
The new standard of classification appears in the 11th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11); but will go into effect on January 1, 2022.
The WHO uses “gender incongruence” to describe people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth.
The new classification is not expected to affect the healthcare provision to respond to the needs of transgender people, but – all the same – it’s expected to improve social acceptance among transgender people while still making important health resources available, according to the United Nations health agency last year when it announced the intended change.
Dr. Jack Drescher, a member of the ICD-11 working group, wrote: “There is substantial evidence that the stigma associated with the intersection of transgender status and mental disorders contributes to precarious legal status [and] human rights violations”.
It is worth noting that the WHO still classifies intersex traits as “disorders of sex development”.
This is not the first time the ICD changed a classification related to sexuality. In 1990, the WHO declared that “sexual orientation alone is not to be regarded as a disorder.”