The World Health Organization (WHO) no longer considers transgenderism to be a mental illness. The move will complicate the Trump administration’s rationale for banning transgenders from military service.
In a surprising new revision to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) — the first since 1992 — the language to describe transgender identities has been altered and delisted as a disorder. Instead of using the term “transsexualism,” the manual now refers to the neutral-sounding “gender incongruence”. It is also no longer listed as a mental disorder but as a “sexual health condition”.
In a media statement, the WHO claimed that the “evidence is now clear that it is not a mental disorder” despite an analysis of transgender suicidality showing that transgender adults are 14 times more likely to think about suicide and 22 times more likely to attempt suicide than the general public.
The study was a collaboration between researchers at Dalhousie University in Halifax, the University of Saskatchewan and McGill University in Montreal, Canada, into how transgenderism disproportionately leads to suicide.
The WHO has changed the description because it “can cause enormous stigma for people who are transgender”. It remains listed in the manual nevertheless since “there remains significant health care needs that can best be met if the condition is coded under the ICD”.
The new listing increases access to care for transgender people the WHO noted, and denied that is was purely a political decision. The decision was taken on a “scientific basis” the international organisation said.
The ICD is used worldwide, offering a universal model. It is also the official system for the United States, despite the prominence of the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual (DSM) developed by the American Psychiatric Association.
In the rationale issued in March, the Trump administration suggested that transgenders could not serve in the military because of doubts about their mental health outcomes.
But Trump’s trans ban is no longer supported by the diagnostic health manual that the US government itself uses and the ICD change makes the administration’s case much weaker, suggesting political expediency at work.
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