WHO No Longer Considers Being Transgender a Mental Health Disorder


May 29, 2019


Transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi (in pink) during an event celebrating one year of the Supreme Court judgement recognizing the Third Gender. Photo Courtesy of PTI.

Being transgender will no longer be categorized as a ‘mental disorder,’ which apparently it was until now, according to The World Health Organization (WHO). The resolution to remove ‘gender identity disorder’ from its global manual of diagnoses was approved on May 25. This revision is being considered as a move that will have a “liberating effect on transgender people worldwide,” Human Rights Watch stated.

Per the revised version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), the WHO’s handbook that guides medical providers in diagnosing diseases, “gender identity disorders” have now been reframed as “gender incongruence.”

Gender nonconformity is now also included in a chapter on sexual health. Activists are now hoping that ICD-11 will be implemented by the WHO’s 194 member states over the next three years, of which India is a part too.

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Currently, various countries require a mental health diagnosis in order to change a person’s gender marker.

“The World Health Organization’s removal of ‘gender identity disorder’ from its diagnostic manual will have a liberating effect on transgender people worldwide,” Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

As per this report, individuals who identify as transgender tend to experience higher rates of mental health issues than the general population. Nearly half of all individuals who identify as transgender experience some form of mental health disorder. 41% of trans men and women are estimated to have attempted suicide— a rate that’s nearly nine times as high as the rate of cisgender Americans. 

Reid says, “Transgender people are fighting stigma and discrimination that can be traced in part to medical systems that have historically diagnosed expressions of gender non-conformity as a mental pathology. But it’s the stigma, discrimination, and bullying—and not anything inherent in gender nonconformity—that can inflict mental health problems in transgender people.”

Therefore, while on the one hand there’s nothing to do but applaud the WHO’s attempt to make the trans community feel more inclusive and secure, there’s one question we all have — what took so long?


Written By Anubhuti Matta

Anubhuti Matta is an associate editor with The Swaddle. When not at work, she’s busy pursuing kathak, reading books on and by women in the Middle East or making dresses out of Indian prints.


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