Denmark on Sunday became the first country in the world to officially remove transgender identities from its list of mental health disorders.
The decision, supported by all parties in the Danish Parliament, was originally made back in May 2016 following a lack of progress from the World Health Organization.
“This very encouraging move from Denmark sets a strong example internationally towards destigmatizing transgender people and paving the way for quick and transparent processes for legal gender recognition,” said Amnesty International Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Advisor Leda Avgousti in a statement.
WHO classifies trans identity under Gender Dysphoria/Gender Identity Disorders in its International Classification of Disorders or ICD. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the term “perpetuates discrimination by broad-brushing transgender people with the stigma of mental illness.”
“The listing as a mental illness are stigmatizing for transgender people,” told Linda Thor Pedersen, a spokesperson on trans issues for LGBT Denmark, a Danish advocacy group.
“Our ability to make our own decisions regarding our own treatment is being questioned by healthcare authorities,” she added. “We think it’s an important step because placing transgender people in the wrong category in ICD-10 leads to wrong treatment.”
Changes to the ICD were proposed back in 2014, but when no progress had been made last October, the Danish government decided to move forward independently. WHO is now expected to complete it’s revisions to the ICD by 2018.
“This label means that transgender people are forced to undergo traumatizing and humiliating psychiatric evaluations in order to legally change their gender or even to be able to access gender reassignment treatment,” said Avgousti.
This is not the first time that Denmark has been a leader in improving the rights of trans people.
In May 2014 it repealed a law that forced trans people to undergo sterilization before legally changing their gender.
“Just as they did on civil marriage (first country in the world in 1989) Denmark leads the way once again,” told gay U.S. Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford.
“The public attitude to transgender people have been improved over the last couple of years and there is generally an acceptance of us,” added Pedersen.
Transgender Europe Executive Director Julia Ehrt in a statement said Denmark’s decision “will increase the opinion of being transgender is a natural variation in humanity.”
“While there is still a long way to go to achieve full depathologization of trans people; every positive change in law by a government, every statement of support by institutions is an affirmation of the hard work being carried out behind the scenes by activists and organizations alike,” said Ehrt.