New Study Finds That Transgender Identity Is Not A Mental Disorder

New findings suggest that it would be appropriate to remove the diagnosis of transgender from the current classification as a mental disorder in the WHO International Classification of Diseases (ICD), according to Psych Central.

The research, led by the National Institute of Psychiatry, interviewed 250 transgender people and found that it is not a mental disorder as once believed. Apparently, distress and impairment are the two essential characteristics of a mental disorder, and they found transgender people can experience some distress but not because they are transgender, but because of social rejection and violence.

“If it’s not a disease now, then it never was. This should be clear.”

The field study was conducted in Mexico City between April and August of 2014, with 250 participants who received mental and health care services. The researchers revealed that the Mexico study is the first in a series of studies that hope to be able to confirm the findings so transgender identity can be removed as a mental disorder.

“This reclassification will not only promote discussions for new health policies for the trans community to have better access to health services, but it will also help to reduce the stigma and rejection that they are victims of.”

One of the determining factors for a psychiatric disorder is “distress and dysfunction,” but they found other causes for this feeling as well — such social rejection, family relationship problems, and stigmatization in the community.

The study asked the participants to report what age they first became aware of having a transgender identity, as well as what type of distress they felt, including social rejection and any violence they suffered. The researcher noted that the frequency of violence within the participant families was “particularly disturbing” after their parents discovered their transgender identity status.

The study found that 76 percent of the participants reported they experienced social rejection, with 63 percent noting being a victim of violence as a result of their transgender status. And more alarming was that most of the violence occurred within the participants’ families.

The researcher found that having transgender identity was not an indication of a mental disorder, but coping with transgender identity could cause a person to experience distress and dysfunction, which leads to mental illness symptoms.

“Our findings support the idea that distress and dysfunction may be the result of stigmatization and maltreatment, rather than integral aspects of transgender identity. This study highlights the need for policies and programs to reduce stigmatization and victimization of people with transgender identities. The removal of transgender diagnoses from the classification of mental disorders can be a useful part of those efforts.”

The researchers hope that this study may reduce or eliminate the stigma attached to having a transgender identity. In time, transgender identity will be removed from the ICD and may eventually be accepted socially.


UCLA Williams Institute estimates there are about 1.4 million Americans who are transgender, Time reports. In the study, they found that 80 percent of the participants (in this study) were transgender women (those who were born male and identify as a female). The participants revealed that most of the social isolation they felt was at the hands of their immediate family members.

In a separate study, 57 percent of transgender youth who didn’t have supportive parents attempted suicide. They found that only four percent of transgender youth tried to kill themselves if they felt supported by their family.

“Stigma associated with both mental disorder and transgender identity has contributed to the precarious legal status, human rights violations and barriers to appropriate care among transgender people.”

The study seems to be going in the right direction to bring awareness to the dangers of discriminating against the transgender community. Do you think the WHO will remove transgender identity from the mental disorders?

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