Landmark Move by the World Health Organization Validates Trans Experience
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced last week that identifying as transgender will no longer be classified as a mental illness. On May 25, the WHO’s general assembly adopted the latest revisions to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, which included moving “gender incongruence” from its mental disorders chapter to the chapter on sexual health. This is a tremendous step forward in decreasing bias around non-binary gender identity. Fear, stereotypes, and a lack of accurate information fuel stigma which can silence those who are experiencing complicated feelings about their identity and prevent them from seeking help.
We can no longer neglect the emotional and psychological needs of trans youth and adults as well as minimize the resilience and courage inherent in living one’s true experience despite societal prejudice. Living as a transgender person in the U.S. is dangerous. In 2017, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) reported “at least 29 deaths of transgender people in the United States due to fatal violence, the most ever recorded.”
We at MindWise applaud the WHO for playing a vital role in declassifying transgender experience as a mental illness and opening the door for conversation around what gender non-congruence can mean at an individual level. Increasingly, adults and youth who identify as transgender are telling their stories and each of us can play a role in helping to create a safe, open culture where we can learn from and support their experience.
In light of the WHO’s recent announcement, many in the U.S. are unfamiliar with the LGBTQ community in general and the transgender community in particular. To ensure that proper, respectful terminology is used, it’s worth quoting The Associated Press 2018 Stylebook in full:
transgender An adjective that describes people whose gender identity does not match the sex or gender they were identified as having at birth. Does not require what are often known as sex reassignment or gender confirmation procedures. Identify people as transgender only if pertinent, and use the name by which they live publicly. Generally, avoid references to a transgender person being born a boy or girl, since describing someone as transgender speaks for itself and doesn’t take intersex babies into account. Bernard is a transgender man. Christina is transgender. The shorthand trans is acceptable on second reference and in headlines…. Do not use as a noun or refer to someone as a transgender, or use the term transgendered.