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Denmark Makes Landmark Move for Transgender Rights

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Denmark First Country to Stop Classifying Being Transgender as a Mental Illness

The World Health Organization has been shuffling papers around since 2014, intending to declassify being transgender as a disorder by 2018. But Denmark got tired of waiting and made a landmark decision to fly solo.

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In the first week of 2017, the nation removed transgender persons from being classified as having “psychological and behavioural disorders.”

According to the WHO, the International Classification of Disease still includes a person whose “gender identity or sexual preference is not in doubt, but… wishes it were different.”

While professional healthcare and human rights bodies in many nations in Europe, Scandinavia, and North America no longer approach transgender people as mentally ill, it’s still what’s official on the books.

Denmark has rejected this formally and is making a statement and a symbolic gesture of solidarity and acknowledgement of the rights and dignity of trans people.

The World Health Organization itself conducted a landmark study last year in Mexico and concluded that, “the conceptualization of transgender identity as a mental disorder has contributed to precarious legal status, human rights violations, and barriers to appropriate health care among transgender people.”

Its recommendations will take until 2018 to roll out, a bureaucratic process that Denmark decided to jump in front of.

In fact, the American Psychiatric Association did remove Gender Identity Disorder from the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders  in 2012. The listing that replaced it was Gender Dysphoria.

Some human rights activists praised this move, and others said it had simply changed the name but still considered transgendered people mentally ill.

The APA stated that the new term reflects the discontent and turmoil trans people experience because of their differences. This designation does acknowledge the unique difficulties trans people face, but still seems to suggest that transgenderism is an illness or disorder.

However, it was a step in a new direction and huge strides have been made since then.

Denmark’s we-first gesture is an even bigger step.

“The change is symbolic, but important,” activist Linda Thor Pedersen told Out in Perth news. “It’s important for transgender people to not be branded mentally ill when we are not.”

I hope this move will be followed by many countries, which will spur the WHO into speedier action, as well as directly encourage medical and educational professionals everywhere to tell the truth and conduct their day-to-day jobs in ways that reflect the truth that transgender people are not mentally ill.  

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