This year, as every year, GATE joins the celebration of the International Day of Action for Trans* Depathologization. Today, October 19, 2013 activists, groups and networks around the world unite with a common affirmation: our experiences of embodiment, identity, love and sexuality, gender and its multiple expressions are not and must not be classified as pathological.
Trans* pathologization affects different communities in different ways, but its effects are always devastating. The diagnostic classification of trans* people as mentally disordered is, even today, a legal requirement in many countries to grant legal recognition of a gender identity when it varies from the sex assigned at birth. In many countries, the same classification is required in order to control trans* people’s access to gender affirming procedures (such as surgery and hormones) and to ensure, where possible, their coverage. Moreover, those diagnoses that pathologize us have been, and are still used, to promote and justify human rights violations, including forced institutionalization and treatment without consent (such as conversion therapies). The current identification of trans* existence as pathological affects negatively the realization of our right to health in different ways: in order to avoid the harm caused by pathologization many trans * people prefer to avoid accessing all forms of health care; additionally, trans* people’s real health needs are diminished or ignored in the context of a biomedical system obsessed with diagnosing, treating and “curing” our gender identity and expression. This dynamic is particularly damaging, for example, at the intersection of trans* pathologization and the HIV response. Likewise, those children whose gender identity and/or expression contradict normative expectations in their cultures suffer the negative effects of pathologization with particular virulence.
At this time the World Health Organization (WHO) is in the process of revising the International Classification of Diseases. The World Health Assembly is expected to vote on the approval of its eleventh version (or ICD-11) in 2016. GATE encourages the WHO to take a resolute position in favor of trans* people’s human rights, by eliminating those diagnoses that pathologize trans* and gender variant people and avoiding the introduction of new diagnostic codes under the ICD chapter on mental health issues. Recognizing the centrality of this process for the present and future of our communities and the key expertise of trans* people on these issues, we also request the WHO to expand the opportunities for active trans* participation, including access to key information about the process.
Throughout recent history the medical, legal, bioethical and economic need for trans* related diagnoses has been frequently affirmed. The gender identity law passed in Argentina last year challenges this naturalized assumption, showing that trans*depathologization can be a reality not only for adults and adolescents, but also for children. Trans* related diagnoses, in spite of their different wordings (gender identity disorder, gender incongruence or gender dysphoria), when applied to children, inevitably pathologize gender diversity in childhood. Regardless of future embodiments, identities, sexualities and expressions, these diagnoses work toward perpetuating normative distinctions between healthy and pathological experiences of gender, and forcing children to incarnate them.
GATE continues its commitment to the international movement for trans* depathologization. As an integral part of that commitment, and sharing the vision of the International STP Campaign, we announce today the launch of a yearlong effort focused on depathologizing gender diversity in childhood – not only to depathologize our present and future, but also to depathologize our past.
Get involved, today.
Mauro Cabral & Justus Eisfeld, Co-Directors
For information about GATE’s work on the reform of the International Classification of Diseases and the international campaign to depathologize gender diversity in childhood, contact us: