On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) released an updated version of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) to no longer include “gender incongruence” as a mental disorder.
Existing evidence, the WHO argued, was “clear that it is not a mental disorder.” Instead, the WHO classified gender incongruence as a “sexual health condition,” potentially altering how medical professionals treat the condition around the world.
The organization also indicated that part of its reasoning came from the stigma surrounding the issue:
The rationale being that while evidence is now clear that it is not a mental disorder, and indeed 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.
Citing its removal of “homosexuality […] from the ICD and other disease classification systems in the 1970s,” the WHO added that it made revisions to sexual health condition classifications when “medical evidence does not back up cultural assumptions.”
“A critical point in engaging with the ICD is that inclusion or exclusion is not a judgment on the validity of a condition or the efficacy of treatment,” the WHO’s website said.
But psychologist Geoffrey Reed, who helped compile the ICD, previously told The New York Times that the organization sought the reclassification as a way to “reduce barriers to care.”
The WHO sought to change its terminology from “transsexualism” to “gender incongruence,” according to Reed, because the latter helped express “a discrepancy between a person’s experienced gender identity and their body.”
“One of the benefits of moving it out of the mental disorder section is trying to reduce stigma,” Dr. Michael First, the chief technical consultant behind the new ICD, told the Times.
The initial measure, according to Reed’s comments, seemed almost primarily designed for helping people access medical care rather than accurately classifying “gender incongruence.”
Dr. Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist who also advises the WHO, said he supported removing “gender dysphoria” from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) but wanted the ICD to maintain it because that might be the only way for some, like Chelsea Manning, to receive care.