The Malta Independent 17 August 2019, Saturday

Gender Incongruence removed from Mental Health Chapter through ICD 11

Jeremy Micallef Monday, 25 June 2018, 10:50 Last update: about 2 years ago

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that, through the International Classification of Diseases 11, Gender Incongruence, previously Gender Dysphoria, will no longer be considered a mental health issue, but one of sexual health.

The WHO’s Coordinator of the Department of Reproductive Health and Research Dr Lale Say explained, “It was taken out of Mental Health Disorders because we had better understanding this wasn’t actually a mental health condition, and leaving it there was causing stigma. And in order to reduce the stigma, while also insuring access to medical health interventions, this was placed to the Sexual Health chapter in the new ICD.”

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Say added that this decision was based on the review of existing evidence from the scientific and concerned communities.

Community manager for Allied Rainbow Communities (ARC) Clayton Mercieca viewed this as a positive. He is, however, unhappy that this still stigmatises trans and non-binary persons considering it still pathologises these identities.

“We believe that such persons should be given full right and freedom to determine their gender identity without medical assessment”, he said, adding that ARC believes trans individuals should still be given the necessary treatment without being pathologised, “in order to live the identity they determine themselves to be.”

In July 2016, Julia Ehrt, executive director of Transgender Europe, suggested that the childhood diagnoses be removed from the ICD 11. She said: “Children need the freedom to be who they are. But before puberty there is no need for medical treatment and therefore no need for inclusion in the ICD.”

Responding to this, Mercieca said that children as young as five have shown a desire to change their gender. “In this regard they should be given full social and emotional support by their parents and school, and this includes giving them the freedom to choose the uniforms they wish to wear and be assigned to schools of the gender with which they indentify”.

The Malta Independent on Sunday contacted the Health Ministry for comments on whether this change would affect current care procedures and guidelines and, seeing that it is no longer considered a mental illness, would this have any effect on state-funded care.

In reply, the Ministry clarified that “Malta has become a beacon for other countries with respect to LGBTIQ rights. To this effect, the Government’s policy on transgender services is in line with the re-classification of gender incongruence.”

The Nationalist Party did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.

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