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World Health Organization Says Being Transgender Is Not A Mental Illness But A Sexual Health Condition

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For the longest time, some mental health professionals would treat transgender people as having a mental illness because of international classifications.

What Did The World Health Organization Announce?

On June 18, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that being transgender would no longer classify as a mental illness. The organization previously classified transgender people as having a condition known as gender dysphoria.

Some transgender people — but not all — have gender incongruence, a condition when a person believes that they were born in a gender different than how they feel. The WHO used to classify this as a mental illness under its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD).

The ICD is the list of the WHO"s officially recognized disorders. Many countries use this list to determine where to place medical resources. It was last updated in 1990. WHO previously removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in the 1970s.

As part of the recent update, transgenderism is now going to be classified as a sexual health condition instead.

Why Is This Change Important?

"Classifying it in this can cause enormous stigma for people who are transgender, there remain significant health care needs that can best be met if the condition is coded under the ICD," the WHO wrote online.

Some people argued that the classification should have remained so that transgender people could still seek medical treatments. Many transgender people still need medicine and counseling.

"In order to reduce the stigma while also ensuring access to necessary health interventions, this was placed to a different chapter — the sexual health chapter," said Dr. Lale Say.

How Will This Help Transgender People?

The biggest change is that there will be less stigma for transgender people.

"Being trans is not a mental illness, and it's great to see the WHO recognize this," Rebecca Stinson, head of trans inclusion at the LGBT charity Stonewall, told Newsweek. "Trans people seeking support need to be accepted for who they are."

The WHO explained that there are still "significant health care needs" for transgender people. Although transgender women are 49 times more likely to have HIV than other adults, access to HIV health services can be limiting. With less stigma, there could be more health care services provided to the transgender community. There are still some other legal barriers that could impact health care access, but the recent change by WHO is a step in the right direction.

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