Posted on 19. December 2011 in Health & Depathologisation

Experts develop alternative models for trans* health classifications


THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Invited by GATE – Global Action for Trans* Equality, a group of more than 20 experts from most parts of the world met at the Dutch Ministry for Education, Culture and Science on November 16-18 to discuss alternative models for trans* health classifications. Currently the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Classification of Diseases (ICD) defines people who have a trans* identity as having a ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ which is included in the chapter on Mental and Behavioral Disorders. The ICD is currently under general review – for the first time in over twenty years. This offers a unique opportunity for trans* people to see their healthcare needs adequately addressed without pathologizing their identities. Many trans* people around the world experience overwhelming barriers in attempting to access appropriate and gender identity affirming health care.

The experts, many of whom self-identify as trans*, reached agreement that the current classifications are not serving trans* communities around the globe adequately, and can have detrimental effects on trans* people’s health and the enjoyment of their human rights. Those classifications pathologize gender identity and gender expression, forcing trans* to clinically prove their sense of self. It also encourages gate-keeping by mental health professionals to the medical treatments that trans* people need.

As an alternative, the experts agreed that a central new, non-pathologizing category should be created and developed, which can guide health practitioners to relevant existing or new diagnostic codes throughout the ICD when access to health services is required by trans people. This change of focus posed important questions that still need further exploration and consensus making. First, whether or not a separate diagnostic code in the mental health chapter will still be necessary (for example, to cover those trans* people who want to explore their gender identity with the help of a mental health provider, as well as trans* people who have mental health issues that may or may not be connected to their gender expression or identity). Secondly, how this proposal would be applied to children and adolescents seeking gender affirming counseling or other treatment.

The group of experts will keep consulting with trans* communities and other trans* experts, before making further proposals to this end. Everyone is encouraged to get in contact and be part of this process.

For more information please contact:

Mauro Cabral, Co-director Global Action for Trans* Equality (English, Spanish): mcabral[at]

Justus Eisfeld, Co-director Global Action for Trans* Equality (English, German, Dutch): jeisfeld[at]