The World Health Organization will end its practice of classifying transgender people as “mentally ill,” the WHO announced today.
The U.N.’s health agency uses the term “gender incongruence” to describe individuals whose gender identity is different from what they were assigned at birth. The term will be moved within the organization’s influential International Classification of Diseases (ICD) manual, from the mental health chapter to the sexual health chapter. The WHO noted that “gender variant behavior and preferences alone are not a basis” for diagnosing mental health conditions.
The classification change will be presented to the WHO’s legislative body, the World Health Assembly, in 2019. The change will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
Human rights and LGBT activists hailed the decision, noting that labeling trans people as having a pathological condition contributed to stigmatization, and in some cases, limited health resources. The WHO’s classification “contributed to the enormous stigma, discrimination, harassment, criminalization, and abuse on the basis of gender identity and expression,” the coalition organization Transgender Europe said in a statement.
In 2016, the New York Times reported that the U.S. adult transgender population is nearly 1.4 million, according to analysis of statistics of individuals self-reporting on their gender identity. That figure is more than double what demographic researchers had estimated.
Today’s WHO news follows an announcement earlier this week that the organization is adding a new classification to the ICD: gaming addiction.