The World Health Organization has officially removed transgender from its listed status of mental illness.
Gender incongruence, or gender dysphoria, are the terms used to refer to a transgender person’s possible distress at being assigned the wrong gender at birth. When a person has difficulties reconciling their bodies, genitalia or other body parts, or biology with the gender they identify as, these terms have been helpful in describing the resulting stresses and strategies.
What isn’t helpful, of course, is having your true identity referred to as a mental illness.
It’s a monumental symbolic moment for the transgender civil rights movement, unique in history.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the scientific evidence is crystal clear: gender incongruence is not a mental disorder or mental illness.
WHO acknowledged that classifying it as mental illness can cause stress, stigma, discrimination, and harm to transgender people.
Geoffrey Reed, a chief consultant in the change and a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University, told Pink News: “It’s sending a very strong message that the rest of the world is no longer considering it a mental disorder. One of the benefits of moving it out of the mental disorder section is trying to reduce stigma.”
Gender incongruence will continue to be used in sexual health terminology, in order to facilitate practical conversations and treatment strategies for trans people. Transgender folks who need hormone medications and surgical interventions will be able to use the vocabulary without the unnecessary stigma of mental illness.
Transgender communities all over the world are celebrating the landmark move as a kind of declaration of independence. Although continued work lies ahead for transgender rights and other trans issues—medicine, employment, violence, prison reform, and safe bathrooms—the official world health sanction of removing transgender identity as a mental disease is an epic step towards all of these.
Like being gay, transgenderism was once considered a perversion or sin, then a mental illness, and has finally officially been acknowledged on the world stage as an identity that is just human, with the same human rights afforded to anyone else.
It’s definitely a day for celebration!