WHO Recognises Transgender Human Rights

The WHO removes Trans identities from the ICD 11 Mental Health Disorders section

July 18, 2018: In what is a historic announcement for activists, the World Health Organization (WHO) has acknowledged the rights of trans people[1] to have their gender identities without prejudice, persecution or stigma.

A new online version of the International Classification of Diseases version 11 (ICD11) has removed gender identity related diagnoses from the chapter on mental health disorders. Instead, the WHO has created a new set of trans-related diagnostic categories for adults, young people and children. These have been placed alongside physical illnesses, disorders and syndromes in the chapter “Conditions related to sexual health”.[2]

Patients will now receive the diagnosis of ‘Gender Incongruence’, which has three subsections:

  • HA60 Gender incongruence of adolescence or adulthood
  • HA61 Gender incongruence of childhood
  • HA6Z Gender incongruence, unspecified

Effectively ICD11 acknowledges the reality of the experiences of people with trans- gender identities and gender incongruence, and that these are normal human variations. With ICD11, the WHO is signposting a requirement for trans health care to be provided without the added stigma of a mental health diagnosis.

Activists from the global trans community have been demanding these changes for well over twenty years. The medical psychopathologizing of gender incongruence, often based on nothing more than moral and religious indignation, allowed the systematic, institutional and personal abuse of trans people. Research has demonstrated a global, universal experience by trans people of transphobic prejudice, discrimination, harassment, violence, and criminalisation of trans people’s core identities.

The announcement and publication of ICD11 should signal the end for any vestiges of historical, abusive transgender ‘mental health’ practices such as aversion therapy, compulsory sterilisation and enforced hospitalisation.

Julia Ehrt, Executive Director of Transgender Europe, on hearing the announcement said

 “This is the result of tremendous effort by trans and gender diverse activists from around the world to insist on our humanity, and I am elated that the WHO agrees that gender identity is not a mental illness.”[3]

Trans people in North America[4] will continue to experience the stigma associated with a mental health diagnosis. In the rest of the world, though, these new diagnostic codes should mean significant, positive changes for all trans people pursuing any health care, including gender-affirming and reassignment treatments.


This is a tremendous move forward for people in our human environment who want to be recognised for their innate gender self-recognition – which may be different from that assigned at their birth. This is a distinct category of sexual dysphoria – long recognised by those affected but largely unrecognised by both the Church and the World at large. 

These people have cause to thank God that their basic human right – to be as they uniquely recognise themselves, in terms of their gender true identity – for this world-wide  United Nations recognition of the daily reality they are learning to live with.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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