The global medical system has made a huge leap forward for those who do not identify with traditional gender and sexual identities. A draft of the new International Classification of Diseases (ICD) has removed transsexualism from its list of 'mental disorders'. Apart from its possible social implications, the move could help transgender and gender non-binary people gain greater access to healthcare.
The significant move was part of the ongoing revision of the ICD, which is being referred to as ICD-11. The ICD is a health care classification system that serves as the most important diagnostic tool for epidemiology, healthcare management and clinical assessments. Simply put, it is a manual for healthcare professional across the world.
The revision that could benefit millions of trans people the world over came in the reclassification of 'gender incongruence' as a 'sexual health condition'. It used to be treated as a 'mental disorder'.
"Gender incongruence, meanwhile, has also been moved out of mental disorders in the ICD, into sexual health conditions. 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," read an explanatory note on the revision.
"Revisions in inclusions of sexual health conditions are sometimes made when medical evidence does not back up cultural assumptions. For instance, ICD-6 published in 1948 classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, under the assumption that this supposed deviation from the norm reflected a personality disorder; homosexuality was later removed from the ICD and other disease classification systems in the 1970s," the summary said.
This revision was made public in the release of a version of the ICD-11 that can now be taken up for implementation by doctors around the world. But more importantly, it could blunt governments that maintain legal and cultural systems that deny rights and equality to trans people.
In any case, the ICD would go a long way to improving access to healthcare for trans people since it would be used as a manual by doctors, irrespective of what their governments might think.
The completed version of ICD-11 is expected to be submitted to the WHO's World Health Assembly in 2019 for final endorsement.