Denmark to Become First in World to Drop Classification of Transgender as Mental Illness

Denmark to Become First in World to Drop Classification of Transgender as Mental Illness
Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

The World Health Organization (WHO) still classifies transgender individuals as mentally ill. It's currently working to revise that definition, but has been taking its sweet time since 2014. Denmark has "run out of patience," the Telegraph reported, and is addressing the problem on its own. By Jan. 1, 2017, Denmark will be the first country that does not categorize being transgender as having a mental disorder.

"The WHO is currently working on a new system for registering diagnoses," Flemming Moller Mortensen, Social Democrat and health spokesperson, reportedly said. "It has been working on it for a very, very long time. Now we've run out of patience, and want to send out a signal saying that if the system is not changed by October, then we in Denmark will go it alone." 

"It's incredibly discriminatory to put transgender people in a box with mental and behavioral illnesses," he added, calling the WHO's definition stigmatizing. Because indeed, the most recent version (see F64) of the Internal Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) does file "transsexualism" under gender identity disorders, a subset of mental and behavioral disorders. 

The Danish government hopes its declaration will spur WHO to action, yielding a more accurate description of what it means to be transgender, before the end of 2016. According to the Local, Linda Thor Pederson, trans issue spokesperson for LGBT Denmark, called the country's resolution "a big step forward."

"Being transgender is a natural variation, like being left-handed," she said. "We are not sick, and therefore don't belong in the chapter on mental illness. Some people still think we are mentally ill, because our diagnosis is in the psychiatric chapter. This proposal can make a big difference toward changing that." 

Meanwhile, in the United States, people in certain areas are asked to bring a birth certificate with them to the bathroom or pay the price ($500), in order to protect "women and children" safe from a perceived trans threat. 

Read more: Geraldine Roman Just Became the Philippines' First Transgender Congresswoman 

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Claire Lampen

Claire is a staff writer at Mic who covers women's issues and reproductive rights. She is based in New York and can be reached at claire@mic.com.

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