World Health Organization: Transgender People Aren't Nuts

NEW YORK CITY—The World Health Organization (WHO), the health agency of the United Nations, announced that it will be moving its classification of “gender incongruence” (better known as transgenderism) from the “mental disorders” chapter in its International Classification of Diseases catalog to the “sexual health” chapter next year, with the change formally going into effect on January 1, 2022, for reasons upon which it didn’t bother to elaborate.

But let’s face it: trans people are used to waiting for this shit. Gosh, it seems only a year ago that evangelicals were getting all upset that California was about to pass a law allowing nursing homes to house cis and trans residents in the same room and—heaven forfend!—use the same bathroom. (That bill was signed into law in October of last year, and oddly enough, no trans-related nursing home homicides have yet been reported!)

And then, of course, there are the ongoing fights in every corner of the Bible Belt and beyond to stop trans students from using the school bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity—and guess who’s upset that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled from the bench, after hearing just 20 minutes of argument, that a Boyertown School District rule allowing gender identity-based bathroom use was perfectly okay? That’s right: the ultra-conservative Independence Law Center! (Apparently the reason for the quick ruling was to head off impending challenges to similar school district rules in Philadelphia, Abington, and Lower Merion in Pennsylvania, and New Hope-Solebury, and Cherry Hill in New Jersey.)

On the other hand, officials at the CDC still won’t let their employees use the term “transgender” (or, to be fair, the terms “diversity,” “fetus,” “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “science-based” or “evidence-based”) in their budget proposals—a concept that got reactions from staffers that ranged from “Are you serious?” to “Are you kidding?”

This sort of prejudice may not start at the top, but it didn’t help that President Asshole issued a memorandum in March that said that people with a history of “gender dysphoria,” defined as “those who may require substantial medical treatment, including through medical drugs or surgery” for their transition to their proper gender identity, are disqualified from military service “except under certain limited circumstances,” meaning trans folks who are already serving—but the Pentagon could require them to serve according to their gender at birth!

(One happy note: GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders and the National Center For Lesbian Rights have subpoenaed Trump, Pence and the Defense Department seeking “all communications” between them and religio-conservative legal groups regarding the trans ban. One of those groups was a little testy about the subpoena: “This subpoena is one of the most onerous and frivolous Liberty Counsel has ever seen and is intended to intimidate. If it was allowed to stand, then anyone could use a lawsuit to harass other people and groups with whom they disagree. It would also significantly chill the free speech of any future groups in their communication with governmental officials. It is a gross overreach of judicial power to target and subpoena groups for no other reason than that they supported a politician or general’s decision… It is an attempt by these radical groups to bully and intimidate this organization.“[Emphasis in original]) 

So thanks, WHO, for taking that bold step of recognizing that the millions of transgender people currently living and working in societies around the world aren’t suffering from any gender-based “mental disorder” as they go about their daily lives.

Or as WHO’s new description of “gender incongruence” puts it, “gender variant behavior and preferences alone are not a basis” for diagnosing someone’s mental health.

“It was taken out from the mental health disorders because we had a better understanding that this wasn’t actually a mental health condition and leaving it there was causing stigma,” said Dr. Lale Say, coordinator of WHO’s Adolescents and at-Risk Populations team. “So in order to reduce the stigma while also ensuring access to necessary health interventions, this was placed in a different chapter.”

Or as USA Today noted, “On Twitter, many hailed the decision as a sign of progress.  Others were surprised that being transgender had been categorized as a mental illness for this long.”

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