On Monday, the World Health Organization reported it would no longer designate transgenderism as a mental health disorder in its updated classification of diseases.
“It was taken out from mental health disorders because we had [a] better understanding that this was not actually a mental health condition, and leaving it there was causing stigma,” said Dr. Lale Say, coordinator of WHO’s adolescents and at-risk populations team, according to the Huffington Post.
The WHO will now classify transgender identities as “gender incongruence,” in its updated section on sexual health conditions in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. This definition, according to psychologist Dr. Geoffrey Reed, is expresses “a discrepancy between a person’s experienced gender identity and their body.”
The American Psychiatric Association made a similar shift in 2012 when it revised its manual of mental disorders to remove transgenderism as a mental disorder. Instead, the association classified individuals who experience emotional stress related to gender identity as a person with “gender dysphoria.”
However, one Catholic psychologist said mental health experts are still learning about the intricacies of transgenderism.
“I think the mental health profession hasn’t really had time to really thoroughly catch up on it, besides those in the field who kind of just flow with the current of whatever is popular in the moment,” Dr. Gregory Bottaro, a psychologist with the group CatholicPsych, told CNA last year.
Bottaro added that the biggest concern with transgenderism is its effect on children and their fragile psychological development.
“With kids, it’s really important to recognize that their sexual development is so fragile, and the influence of what’s popular in the culture needs to be really, strongly filtered and studied and understood,” he said.
“The Catholic response is a return to true anthropology – male and female he made them – to understand that our biology and our psychology are not separate things, and so to encourage the development of a curriculum of human nature that is consistent with a true anthropology,” he said.
A sudy titled “Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences,” found that non-heterosexual individuals face a higher risk of adverse health and mental health outcomes. The study estimated they have a 1.5 times higher risk of anxiety and substance abuse, and face double the risk of depression and suicide.
The report additionally found that adults who undergo sex reassignment surgeries are at further risk for mental health problems, making them 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and 19 times more likely to die by suicide, compared to a control group.
There also remains vague findings on the mental health repercussions of sex reassignment surgery for transgender individuals.
A 2016 letter authored by 47 members of Congress noted experts remain ‘inconclusive’ on “whether gender reassignment surgery improves health incomes for Medicare beneficiaries with gender dysphoria, and that some studies have ‘reported harms.’”
The transgender population was recently estimated to make up around 0.6 percent of the total population.