France has become the first country in the world to remove gender identity disorder, also known as transexualism, from its list of officially recognised mental illnesses. This is huge news but seems yet to have been picked up by English language news sources.
The news was reported yesterday in the French national daily Le Figaro and by the AFP newswire in French and English, so my details are from the Spanish language report (e.g. this report in Colombian national El Tiempo).
My translation of an excerpt from the Spanish-language AFP newswire report:
The Minister of Health, Roselyne Bachelot, had announced on 16th May 2009, before the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, that transexualism would not be not considered a psychiatric disorder in France.
On that occasion, numerous personalities from the world of politics and science had signed an article that appeared in the press to petition the World Health Organisation to stop “considering transexuals as affected by mental illness”.
“France is the first country in the world that does not consider transexualism as a mental illness” said Jo√´l Bedos, French representative of IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia), to AFP on Friday. “It’s historic”, added Philippe Caste, spokesperson for the ‘Interasociativa lesbiana, gay, bi y trans’. “It was something very important and was greatly anticipated since the promise was made” added Roselyne Bachelot.
This move will likely be widely supported by the transgender community. However, the prospect of the diagnoses being removed in all countries might be a double-edge sword for some. Although the fact that being diagnosed as mentally ill is a requirement to obtain sex-reassignment in some places has been resented, the removal of the diagnosis could raise fears that the procedure may become less accessible.
Simply being transgendered or having trangender desires itself does not currently qualify for the diagnoses, as it requires significant psychological distress to also be present. However, campaigners argue that this distress is largely caused by discrimination and stigma, to which the diagnosis contributes.
The move by France, however, does not de-list the diagnoses from the World Health Organisation’s ICD-10 classification or the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM and, in fact, the draft DSM-V only slightly modifies the criteria for the diagnoses in children and adults although does rename it ‘gender incongruence’.
Nevertheless, this will put pressure on both the World Health Organisation and the American Psychiatric Association to remove the diagnoses which have a long-standing target of criticism from the LGBT community.