WHO may soon drop transgender identity from list of mental disorders

The World Health Organization may soon declassify transgender identity and remove it from its list of mental disorders.

The WHO is set to update its list of medical conditions, including mental disorders, after decades of not being updated.

A LGBT rights activist takes part in a transgender pride parade which was banned by the governorship, in central Istanbul, Turkey, June 19, 2016. | Reuters/Osman Orsal

The move has been approved by various committees that review such changes. The declassification of transgender identity is seen as important because treatments and healthcare expenses are often based on the category of a person's condition.

According to WHO, the term "transgender" universally refers to people "whose gender identity and expression does not conform to the norms and expectations traditionally associated with the sex assigned to them at birth."

People who are transsexual, transgender and generally gender non-conforming are, by WHO's definition, under the category of transgender identity.

"They may express their gender in a variety of masculine, feminine and/or androgynous ways. The high vulnerability and specific health needs of transgender people necessitates a distinct and independent status in the global HIV response," WHO said.

To set an example to the WHO and as response to the transgender community, Denmark said it will remove transgender identity from its list of mental disorders next year.

Flemming Moller Mortensen, Denmark's health committee deputy chairman, said referring to transgender identity as an illness is inappropriate.

Meanwhile, a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry on July 26 concluded that transgender people should not be seen as experiencing a mental disorder.

The study authors reported that transgender people often experience distress not because of their transgender identity but because of social rejection.

Classifying transgender persons as having mental disorders could force them into receiving unnecessary psychiatric care, the study said.

"Stigma associated with both mental disorder and transgender identity has contributed to the precarious legal status, human rights violations and barriers to appropriate care among transgender people," senior author Professor Geoffrey Reed from the National Autonomous University of Mexico said in a press release.