WHO urged to remove transsexualism off list of mental disorders

‘I am not sick. I am transgender’: World Health Organisation urged to take transsexualism off list of mental disorders

WHO currently defines transsexualism as a mental disorder
35,000 people sign petition calling on the body to change its classification
Campaigners claim current definition leaves people vulnerable to stigma

By Claire Bates
PUBLISHED: 12:14, 19 October 2012 | UPDATED: 16:10, 19 October 2012

The World Health Organisation has come under pressure from campaigners to stop classifying transsexualism as a mental illness.

The body publishes an international classification of diseases which informs government policy and health provision, but is currently under review.

Now, more than 35,000 people have signed a petition at Change.org calling on the body to change its definition. It was set up by Max Zachs, 26, from London, who was featured on Channel 4’s show ‘My Transsexual Summer.’

Max Zachs was born a woman but began the process of changing his gender in 2009. He has set up a petition calling on WHO to stop classifying transexualism as a mental illness

Mr Zachs was born female but has been transitioning since 2009 when he took testosterone hormones. In 2010 he travelled to Bangkok, Thailand, to undergo a double mastectomy and male chest contouring.

In a Youtube video to promote his campaign, Mr Zachs said: ‘I am not sick. I am perfectly healthy. I am transgender.’

Gender identity and its role in healthcare has long been the subject of heated debate. Homosexuality was removed from the list of mental disorders in 1990, when the ICD was last revised and advocates want transsexualism to be removed when it is updated in 2015.

Transsexuals have a strong and constant desire to live and be accepted as a member of the opposite sex. Many have gender reassignment treatment to make their appearance more consistent with their preferred gender. This often involves hormone therapy and surgery.

WHO listed homosexuality as a mental illness until 1990. Transsexualism is still classified as a mental disorder

Recent research suggests gender dysphoria could be caused by hormones not working properly within the womb.

Sarah Savage, from Jersey, who went through transition last year, and appeared in the same documentary as Mr Zachs, said she found the current classification insulting.

‘Before I can get to an NHS identity clinic, I have to be certified by a psychiatrist as sane,’ she told Channel 4 News.

Nottingham provides the only gender identity clinic in the UK that doesn’t require a referral from a mental health expert.

Ms Savage said the condition should be reclassified as a birth defect, as taking it off the list of conditions could lead to it being ignored by doctors.

It is hoped changing the classification could encourage a more patient-led approach to treatment.

Mr Zachs wrote on his blog: ‘Petitioning the WHO to remove trans people from the list of mental illnesses is about wanting to change the way medical professionals think about trans people.

‘It is about saying we have the same rights as any other person, we are not mentally deficient, we are able to make sane sensible decisions about our lives, there is nothing deficient about our minds and the only way to ‘cure’ transsexuality is for our society to give up its illogical and unscientific attachment to gender binary.’

There are signs that a shift of opinion is occurring in favour of reclassification.

In February, 2010, France became the first country to remove transgender identity from the category of mental diseases. Then last year, the European parliament adopted a resolution calling on WHO to change its definition of transsexualism.

A WHO spokesperson said the ICD list had to reflect the demands and requirements of the 194 member states.
VIDEO: “I am not sick” says advocacy group:

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