Yes, you read that right.

WHO puts being a transgender under the head of mental illnesses.

This will, however, change this year when International Classification of Diseases (ICD), WHO’s global codebook that impacts disease diagnostic manuals world over revises its edition.

The current version that treats it as a mental disease came back in 1990. And the WHO must soon understand the importance of how far we have come as a society and how far science, in general, has evolved.

What is more enraging is the fact that being a transgender currently shares space with termed mental illnesses like pedophilia.

The plan to revise the ICD has been pushed time and again. It was first pushed from 2012 to 2015, then to 2017 and to this year finally.

Why was it treated as a mental illness?

It really was termed as a mental illness and was compared to other illnesses like Bulimia and Anorexia because of the way body conformity and realization works.

Trans people experience anxiety when they experience the difference between their physical body and their gender identity. This is called gender dysmorphia, to be more specific.

Also read: Should Transgenders Have Separate Bathrooms In India Where Women Still Openly Defecate? 

However, gender dysmorphia unlike body dysmorphia (Bulimia, anorexia etc) is not an illness in itself although both terms are often confused.

Being a transgender has been attached to a mental disorder because transgenders have suffered from social anxiety and depression all these years.

The distress of attaching a certain identity to yourself, the fear of whether people will accept them and the anxiety of not having those facilities society should allow them.

From choosing gender on any form to not conforming to any of the assigned pronouns and washrooms (the HE or She question).

Shall we then tag people being themselves as an illness just because the society’s at fault?

The proposal to declassify transgender identity as a mental disorder

A study published Tuesday in the journal Lancet Psychiatry argues and urges for the declassification from mental illnesses.

“A condition is designated as a mental illness when the very fact that you have it causes distress and dysfunction”, said Geoffrey Reed, a professor of psychology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, a consultant on ICD-11 and co-author of the study.

The study brought about by these authors put forwards arguments and states that being a transgender is not a disease.

“We found distress and dysfunction were very powerfully predicted by the experiences of social rejection or violence that people had,” he said. “But they were not actually predicted by gender incongruence itself.”

According to Reed, it’s actually the external factors which play a big role and causes all distress.

“The societal stigma, the violence, and the prejudices. Remove them, and all that remains is the feeling of ‘gender incongruence’.”

The label proposed in ICD-11 in a new chapter called “Conditions Related to Sexual Health,” is scheduled to be medically and biologically oriented.

In 2013, the Supreme Court of India had given a direction to all Indian States to enhance the conditions of transgenders in India. Transgenders in India have experienced discrimination in all spheres of life be it in education, at workplace or for their medical needs.

The transgender community in India is highly vulnerable to mental and physical illness, majorly due to lack of economic opportunities, even forcing them to engage in prostitution.

Despite all appreciated efforts it is hard to say that in India the stigma is absent. In fact, as Reed points out the external factors owing to the anxiety and distress are present all over.

Homosexuality was scrapped the same way

Homosexuality as a mental illness was included in ‘The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ (DSM), the psychiatric disorder guidebook.

The diagnosis for the same became  “sexual orientation disturbance,” in 1973. In 1987 it was completely done away with as more and more gay rights advocates spoke up.

If the classification is done away with as was done with homosexuality the problem would be solved.

However, Reed also explains that “The risk would be if we took conditions related to gender identity out of the classification altogether, it would undermine the access to health services that transgender people have.”

He added, “They wouldn’t have a diagnostic code that conveyed eligibility.”

Therefore a lot depends on how the ICD-11 language will be out in order to not stigmatize being a transgender as well as classifying the anxiety of gender identity so that trans people going for sex-reassignment surgeries can avail the benefits.

Image Credits: Google Images

Sources: NYTimes, Washington Post, The Lancet

Read More:

This Transgender Festival In South India Is The Only Chance They Get To Be Married


  1. As long as you are happy in your own skin, it is never an illness because the society needs to accept who you are. Being a cisgender or agender is never an illness and it can never be because its how you see yourself and how others should see you.


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