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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has updated its global manual of diagnoses, removing transgender health issues from the category of mental and behavioural disorders.

In the new manual, ICD-11, gender incongruence is defined as a marked and persistent incongruence between a person’s experienced gender and assigned sex.  In the previous manual, this was classified as a gender identity disorder, listed under the chapter that discussed mental and behavioural disorders.

Dr Lale Say is a reproductive health expert working at WHO.  She states that the change is a result of “a better understanding that this was not actually a mental health condition”, and that it will act to “reduce the stigma”.

There have been some positive responses to the changes.  Graeme Reid from the Human Rights Watch feels that they will have a ‘liberating effect on transgender people worldwide’.  He also stated that governments should change their medical systems and laws accordingly.

However, there are some remaining concerns. Over 50 intersex organisations have signed a joint statement criticising the WHO for terming variations in sex development as ‘disorders of sex development’.

Medical applicants may be interested in researching this along with other changes made in the updated manual, and reflecting on how medical definitions develop over time.  Human and Behavioural Sciences and Psychology applicants might be prompted to consider how we define ‘disorders’.

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