Landmark decision: Denmark will no longer define transgender as mental illness

Copenhagen: Denmark announced it will remove "transgender" from the country's official list of mental illnesses, saying it has run out of patience waiting for the World Health Organization (WHO) to make the change. The move will make Denmark the first nation in the world to make the amendment.

As of 1 January 2017, the word “transgender” will no longer be listed under the Ministry of Health's definition of mental illness, the ministry confirmed, as reported by RT online.

"WHO is currently working on a new system for registering diagnoses. 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,” Social Democrat health spokesman Flemming Møller Mortensen told Ritzau news agency.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Those thoughts were echoed by Health Minister Sophie Lohde, who confirmed that if the WHO changes were not completed by autumn, Copenhagen would seek a “Danish solo act” and change the definition itself.

Mortensen stated that listing transgender people as having a mental illness or behavioural problems was “incredibly stigmatising and in no way reflects how we see transgender people in Denmark. It should be a neutral diagnosis.”

However, he stressed that stigmatisation was not the only reason to make the change.

“It’s incredibly discriminatory to put transgender people in a box with mental and behavioural illnesses. It also has other consequences. Trans people can be denied insurance because they have a diagnosis," he said.

Copenhagen's announcement was praised by LGBT Denmark's trans issue spokesperson Linda Thor Pederson, who called the move a “big step forward”.

“Being transgender is a natural variation, like being left-handed,” Pedersen said. “We are not sick, and therefore don’t belong in the chapter on mental illnesses," the spokesperson said.

"Some people still think we are mentally ill, because our diagnosis is in the psychiatric chapter. This proposal can make a big difference towards changing that."

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Updated Date: May 13, 2016 18:34:32 IST