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WHO moves to end classifying trans identities as mental illness

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its new International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), which removes trans identities from the mental health disorders chapter. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) released its new International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), which removes trans identities from the mental health disorders chapter. 

A new chapter, Conditions related to sexual health, was added to ICD and it includes a new diagnosis of “Gender incongruence”. It is hoped that this shift will continue to give access to gender-affirming care while also ending a long history of so-called “conversion therapies”, forced medicalization, forced hospitalization, and forced sterilization for trans and gender diverse people.

The ICD is the foundation for identifying health trends and statistics worldwide, and contains around 55,000 unique codes for injuries, diseases and causes of death. It provides a common language that allows health professionals to share health information across the globe.

Historically, the pathologization of gender identity through ICD over the past decades has contributed to the enormous stigma, discrimination, harassment, criminalization and abuse on the basis of gender identity and expression.

ICD-11 will be presented at the World Health Assembly in May 2019 for adoption by Member States, and will come into effect on 1 January 2022. This release is an advance preview that will allow countries to plan how to use the new version, prepare translations, and train health professionals all over the country.

The ICD is also used by health insurers whose reimbursements depend on ICD coding; national health programme managers; data collection specialists; and others who track progress in global health and determine the allocation of health resources.

The new ICD-11 also reflects progress in medicine and advances in scientific understanding. For example, the codes relating to antimicrobial resistance are more closely in line with the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS). ICD-11 is also able to better capture data regarding safety in healthcare, which means that unnecessary events that may harm health – such as unsafe workflows in hospitals – can be identified and reduced.

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