Here’s a rundown of what the declassification could mean for trans and nonbinary people in the UK
The United Nations group approved the removal of gender dysphoria from its mental disorders list at a World Health Assembly meeting on Friday in hopes of furthering the rights of transgender and nonbinary people across its 193 member states.
Here’s a rundown of what the declassification could mean for trans and nonbinary people in the UK.
What have the WHO done?
WHO’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems is used to diagnose people with mental health problems across the world.
And now, the directory will list in its eleventh edition of the health manual that “gender identity disorders” are now renamed “gender incongruence”.
This listing will now be placed under a chapter on “sexual health,” as opposed to “mental disorders” in the directory.
Although the body announced it would be making the change in June last year, the entire organisation approved the decision on Friday.
Why is it important?
The directory has been argued to be out of date by several human rights campaigners and leading LGBTQ organisations.
Several LGBTQ gender identities and sexualities have been listed as mental health disorders in the directory over the years, which has stigmatised the treatment of people from the community.
LGBTQ campaigners fought to declassify homosexuality as a mental health disorder after it was listed by the body of doctors and academics in 1977, and it was eventually removed from the list in 1990.
Transgender people in the UK have to be diagnosed with “gender dysphoria” in order to legally change their gender in the UK.
The update to the classification means the government has more clout to updated the Gender Recognition Act, which would allow trans people to update their Gender Recognition Certificate without receiving the diagnosis.
A Stonewall spokesperson said: ‘Being trans is not a mental illness and it’s great to see the WHO recognise this. Trans people seeking support need to be accepted for who they are.
‘Now we need to see change in Britain. Reforming the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) would be a huge step forward towards trans equality. Under the current system, trans people have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), and non-binary people aren’t recognised at all. Replacing this dehumanising process with a system of self-determination would be life-changing for so many trans people in Britain.’
Does the change go far enough?
While several trans and nonbinary activists have welcomed the change, campaigners like nonbinary filmmaker Fox Fisher have hailed the change as “a long time coming”, but part of a bigger fight to “depathologise trans people’s gender identity.”Fisher told i: “It’s great that being trans will no longer be considered a mental illness, and it’s been a long time coming. It’s thanks to so many people who do amazing work and have been for a very long time.
Anyone who knows a trans person will agree that it’s certainly not a mental illness and that it’s more discrimination and the norms imposed on trans people by society that makes life difficult for us.“While it’s a vital step forward, the fight isn’t over yet. The next steps are to completely depathologise trans people’s gender identity while ensuring that we will have free access to quality trans-related health care, as it’s necessary for trans people’s physical and mental well-being,” they added.
LGBTQ organisation Stonewall has also welcomed the news, but noted the law will not come into play until January 2022 – and say trans equality can be improved now by the introduction of a revamped Gender Recognition Act.As it stands, transgender people have to be diagnosed with a mental illness in order to legally change their gender in the UK.
The “depathologisation” of intersex people should also be a cause for concern, added the European Commissioner for Human Rights.
As it stands, doctors can operate on people who are born with male and female sex characteristics to make them one gender, causing unnecessary harm, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic.
“I particularly regret that no progress was achieved in the ICD11 toward depathologisation of intersex people, and that terms such as “sex development disorders” continue to appear in the text. Language in the ICD Foundation suggesting sex “normalising” surgeries remains, which is of major concern,” they said.
“The Commissioner recalled that medically unnecessary sex “normalising” surgeries on infants and children can amount to inhuman or degrading treatment. My predecessors have recommended to ban such surgeries, and condition them upon the free and fully informed consent of the intersex people concerned.”