Kuala Lumpur, 28 June 2018 – The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy supports calls to introduce trans-specific healthcare services and review public health policies in light of the recent declassification of transgender as a mental disorder by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), WHO has stated that gender incongruence, previously defined as a “marked and persistent incongruence between an individual’s experienced gender and the assigned sex”, has been removed from the chapter on Mental and Behavioural Disorders and reclassified as a sexual health condition.
Commenting on this development, Galen Centre Senior Fellow and Executive Director of SEED Foundation, Mitch Yusmar Yusof said, “We (transgender people) spoke about change, and change is finally here. Being true to ourselves is not a mental disorder. Finally, we are entitled to validate ourselves instead of having a psychiatrist define who we are.”
The declassification marks a historic and ground-breaking progress in acknowledging the humanity and normality of transgender and gender diverse people. This reduces stigma against transgender people, facilitates social acceptance and ensures they are able to access the healthcare services they require.
“Pathologization is a form of arbitrary discrimination against the transgender population. It kept us in a state of social marginalisation where we are humiliated and at worst, murdered. It acts as a breeding ground for prejudice, discrimination and hate speech against transgender people around the world,” said Mitch.
“The pathologization of transgender people also acts a barrier in accessing a particular provision of healthcare (specific to transgender people), such as hormone therapy or gender-reassignment surgeries. Depathologization may increase the availability and access to this particular provision of health services that we need.”
The Galen Centre recommends that current Malaysian health policies be reviewed to ensure that they are inclusive of the health needs of marginalized communities such as transgender people. Mechanisms in our healthcare system must ensure optimal access to services amongst transgender people, ranging from gender-affirming primary health services to trans-specific healthcare services. Failing to do so may result in public health concerns, suffering, harm and even deaths.
This can only be achieved by active, concerted efforts to counter damaging stigma and prejudice towards the transgender community within and outside the healthcare system.
“Depathologization of transgender people makes us human and that we matter,” said Mitch. “Finally, we see ways to better ourselves, to exist!”
In Malaysia, it is estimated that there are about 30,000 transgender people. They experience extreme stigma and discrimination within Malaysian society. As the world catches up with global medical standards and understanding of transgender people, it is time for Malaysia to pick up the pace. No one should be left behind.
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