Transgender No Longer A Mental Illness In Denmark: First In The World

Being transgender in Denmark will no longer be a mental illness, effective January 1, 2017. This week, Danish lawmakers on that country’s parliament Health Committee approved the measure. The reason: To be a role model and the front-runner in the gender equality movement and to put pressure on the World Health Organization (WHO), which is currently debating the same measure.

The move makes Denmark the first country in the world to remove the stigma of mental illness from individuals who identify as a sex other than their birth gender. The move also comes at a time when transgender equality has had some major setbacks in other places around the world.

According to Flemming Moller Mortensen, the spokesman for the Social Democrat Party, as reported to Ritzau News, “Trans people in Denmark feel stigmatized when they are diagnosed as having a ‘mental disorder’… We will be the first in the world to remove transgender as a diagnosis. The Health Committee has approved removing transgender from the Danish Health and Medicines Authority…list of mental disorders if the World Health Organization hasn’t done so by then.”

Denmark’s History Of Firsts

This is not the first transgender rights legislation that Denmark has passed. It was also the front-runner in earlier legislation, passed in 2014, designed to allow transgender adults to change their legal gender status without any legal or medical interventions. In many European countries, this is still not the case, and restrictive laws requiring sterilization and divorce are still on the books.

Rights Groups Hail The Action

Amnesty International, a major player in LGBT rights all over the world, has praised the Danish Parliament for this action. Trine Christen, the organization’s Danish general secretary, made a public statement.

“This is a huge step – not just for transgender people in Denmark but around the world – that Danish politicians have so clearly approved removing transgender from the list of mental illnesses…This makes Demark a pioneer country for transgender rights.”

Will The U.S. Listen?

Denmark’s move is no doubt welcomed by LGBT rights groups throughout the world, and it comes at a time when many states in the U.S. are passing more restrictive and discriminatory legislation against gay and transgender populations. The most famous of these was a recent law passed by the state of North Carolina that received worldwide publicity. In it were provisions that transgender people had to use the public restrooms indicated for their birth gender no matter how they identified. It also gave employers the right to fire people for being transgender.

Many court cases will come out of this North Carolina law, and a number of groups and companies are now boycotting the state. Even within the state, the University of North Carolina is refusing to enforce the bathroom portion of the law and, in fact, holds sensitivity orientation programs regarding LGBT students, so that non-transgender student populations will see their trans peers as equal and worthy of respect.

The entire issue of transgender rights vs. religious freedom promises to be a hot-button issue in the coming U.S. elections in November.

Will Demark Serve As A Role Model?

Likely not. As socially progressive as we like to think European countries are, changes still come slowly for the LGBT community. While gay marriage is common and recognized, the transgender population still suffers discrimination, both legally and socially. And is less developed countries in Africa, even being gay is a crime with the penalty of death. The world still has a long and tough road to travel on the transgender issue. The move by Denmark may begin to serve as a role model, but not yet for many others.

[Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images]

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