In a move that seems impossibly late, The World Health Organisation (WHO) has passed legislation to remove being transgender from its list of mental health disorders. The legislation has the potential to give trans and non-binary people all over the world an easier route to legal transition without prosecution.
The decision was approved on Friday May 25 by the World Health Assembly – the decision-making body of WHO that represents 194 member states – and the expectation is that the ruling will lead to official policy and greatly benefit transgender people around the world.
Welcoming the action, a spokesperson for Stonewall, the UK-based LGBT rights charity told Dazed: “Being trans is not a mental illness and it’s great to see the WHO recognise this. Trans people seeking support need to be accepted for who they are.”
The spokesperson added: “Now we need to see change in Britain. Reforming the 2004 Gender Recognition Act would be a huge step forward towards trans equality. Under the current system, trans people have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, and non-binary people aren’t recognised at all. Replacing this dehumanising process with a system of self-determination would be life-changing for so many trans people in Britain.”
Trans rights activists have worked tirelessly for their right to simply exist on their own terms in a climate where transgender people are among the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in society. Tragically, violence against trans people is all too commonplace – last week in the US 23-year-old transgender woman, Muhlaysia Booker, was killed a month after a video of her being beaten by four men went viral. Just days later, President Trump announced sweeping changes to laws that protect trans people from discrimination in healthcare.
While WHO hopes that the action will help to eliminate the discrimination against transgender people, there’s undeniably a long way to go before trans equality is achieved. A recent report from Stonewall found that 45 per cent of young trans people have attempted suicide in their lives, a much higher rate than those whose gender identity matches the sex on their birth certificates. However, the WHO ruling offers hope that trans acceptance is on the horizon.
Read our piece celebrating the 30th birthday of Stonewall UK here and if you are a gender querstioning young person and would like to talk to someone, you can contact Mermaids here.