PETALING JAYA: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has removed transgenderism from its list of mental disorders and activists welcome the move.
According to international news agency AFP, transgenderism has been removed from the list of mental disorders, but is now categorised under the chapter on "conditions related to sexual health".
WHO introduced the change in its 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) during the recent World Health Assembly in Geneva on May 25.
The World Health Assembly, the WHO governing body that represents 194 member states, had agreed to adopt the revision that will come into effect on Jan 1, 2022.
According to WHO, the ICD defines the universe of diseases, disorders, injuries and other related health conditions.
Malaysian transgender activist Nisha Ayub said the reclassification was a positive step as it meant that transgender people have no mental issues related to their identity and would also reduce the stigma against them.
However, Nisha noted that it was not proper for WHO to classify transgenderism as a sexual issue.
"They have to understand that being a transgender person – especially transsexual people – is not about our sexuality but about our identity.
"They need to relook where they should place us in the medical perspective because it is not just about sexual health," she told The Star on Tuesday (May 28).
Even with the WHO reclassification, Nisha said she was not sure if the situation would be any different for transgender people in Malaysia.
She said this was because any research or statements by any international agencies that have come out will often be deemed as not part of the Malaysian culture and will therefore not be obliged to implement it.
Transmen of Malaysia founder Dorian Wilde also welcomed WHO's decision, suggesting that the government incorporate trans-inclusive healthcare as a key component of public healthcare so that medical transitioning can be accessible and done safely.
Wilde also urged for the government to take WHO's decision seriously and to move to "repeal civil and syariah laws targeting transgender and gender non-conforming people".
Meanwhile, the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj said WHO's reclassification was to help end discrimination and promote better understanding of the transgender community.
"MMHA supports any move that is aimed to remove discrimination and to promote an inclusive society acknowledging the fact that societal barriers and legal recognition may be a far cry away.
"Transgender people, like all vulnerable people, may have psychological distress as a result of how society views and treats them but need not be inferred that being transgender is an illness.
"Every one must be allowed to lead a life of dignity including those with sexual incongruence," he said.