IMPORTANT NOTE: This question focuses on scientific aspects of gender dysphoria only. By no means I desire to disrespect anybody and will gladly have comments about any mistake I might have.

My following question is specifically with the very basic idea of "mental illness" and nothing else --- Why WHO distinguishes between having a common mental illness (e.g. schizophrenia, depression, etc.) and being a transgender person, which by definition referred to people who * feel or think to* "have a gender identity that differs from their sex assigned at birth".

Does being transgender a mental health condition? If no, why not?
That is to ask; why in some countries health agencies declassify transgender people as having "mental disorder" (in accordance with the world health organisation (WHO))?
In other words, what makes being transgender different than being mentally ill?

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    This is like asking if sneezing means having a cold. Some people are born physically that way, and no amount of psychological treatment can "cure" the condition. But for some people it is a mental condition, like anorexia, a misperception of one's self. Unfortunately politics has entered the situation. Calling it a mental disorder results in protests from people that think this also labels the real transgenders. Of concern is that these politics are indirectly encouraging the mental cause. Cliques of transgender girls Jan 18, 2020 at 14:55
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    "in accordance with the world health organisation (WHO)" can you please provide a reference for this claim that the WHO classifies transgenderism a mental health condition? Jan 18, 2020 at 15:14
  • @ChrisRogers Read the question again, I said "declassify" not "classify" Jan 18, 2020 at 16:12
  • You're asking the wrong question. Your question should be: Why would anyone consider transgenderism a mental illness when there's nothing about transgenderism that meets the definition of illness?
    – Carey Gregory
    Jan 18, 2020 at 18:23
  • @CareyGregory It's not a wrong question. But I understand your point :) Jan 19, 2020 at 19:00

2 Answers 2


Transgender is a very broad and not a very well defined term, but a much more well defined term for which people most often mean is feeling a persistent, consistent and insistent need for transsexualism since early as memory appeared in mind (most often referred to as gender dysphoria) which as of itself is not a mental illness and generally isn't caused by a mental illness as I will further explain:

Gender dysphoria can be caused by various intersexualism conditions by which a human is somewhere between a female and a male at least by brain anatomy and physiology and of course, that effects developmental psychology in the course of life (hence feeling, in a sense, somewhere between a female-woman and a male-man) but with a case-dependent proper treatment, if at all needed, a person can live functioning, constructing and possibly very happy life and do lots of good in this world.

Further, gender dysphoria is a "mental condition" in the senses that:

  • It requires tremendous amounts of time and energy to figure out how to deal with the dissonance between gender sensation or gender identity and body appearance
  • It requires tremendous amounts of time and energy to chose how to deal with it and doing so in practice, which as of 2020 is going through a most likely (yet not necessary) vast change in body appearance, apparel, cosmetics, bureaucracy and so forth including taking hormonal treatment (and for some trans persons - different types of surgery)
  • This is probably hardest (no pun intended): It requires dealing with ignorance and transphobia and often suffer from drug abuse, harsh violence and so forth (with many transgenders being, sadly, sexually abused, murdered or got suicide)

That said;

It should be noted that indeed there are some non general / extra ordinary / extremely rare cases in which some mental illness cause someone (as part of a delusional or dissociative phase) a gender dysphoria so she or he might actually transition based on wrong diagnosis in the end but these sad cases (which are barely seriously researched) will most likely end in detransition (permanent type) and are different than generally all cases of transsexualism in etiology.
Yet, these rare cases should be taken very seriously as people lost body parts and/or functions (such as gonads, genitals and female breast or hair or got a way softer voice and so forth) or got extra body parts and/or functions (such as female breast or more permanent hair or deeper voice and so forth) for which they are probably regret to this day.
I note that these should-end-in-permanent-detransition cases are neither the majority, nor the most of cases of gender dysphoria, per what I understand and explained.

Update (comment notes that might get deleted):

One has to differentiate between a mental state (or "condition"), a mental disorder (not being in order with the common mentality which isn't necessarily bad) and a mental illness (which at least harms or by proper consistent evidence, can consistently harm others and/or a person itself seriously);
As I have explained, transsexualism is a technical process that surly isn't a mental illness or disorder and gender dysphoria that usually cause it, generally isn't caused by a mental illness or disorder.

By my opinion, supporting both those who really need transsexualism and the tiny minority of detransitioners (permanent or not) and finding ways to prevent the extremely rare cases of should-end-in-detransition transsexualism (especially permanent type) is one way to make this world better.


Being transgendered is NOT a mental health condition.

The American Psychiatric Association states that a mental health disorder requires distress or disability (APA, n.d.).

A psychological state is considered a mental disorder only if it causes significant distress or disability. Many transgender people do not experience their gender as distressing or disabling, which implies that identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder.

The WHO classified transgenderism as being a gender identity disorder in ICD-10 under the section entitled mental and behavioural disorders. However, in the latest version of the ICD, (ICD-11), gender incongruence is defined as a marked and persistent incongruence between a person's experienced gender and assigned sex and is under the section entitled sexual health.

Dr. Lale Say, a reproductive health expert at the World Health Organization, said:

It was taken out from mental health disorders because we had a better understanding that this was not actually a mental health condition (Say, 2018), and leaving it there was causing stigma.


APA, (n.d.). Answers to Your Questions & About transgender people, gender identity, and gender expression Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/transgender

Say, (2018) *WHO: Revision of ICD-11 (gender incongruence/transgender) — questions and answers (Q&A) Rterieved from: https://youtu.be/kyCgz0z05Ik

  • Thanks, @Chris for the answer. So based on WHO, it is considered as a "gender identity disorder" which means it is a disorder (according to WHO), right? If so, shouldn't a "disorder" be "cured", if possible? How different it is from other types of mental disorders? I believe many transgenders do experience several types of distressing in their lives, especially when they see a gap between their body and their self-view. Jan 18, 2020 at 16:04
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    @linker - Read my answer again. The WHO used to call it a gender identity disorder, but no longer does. Jan 18, 2020 at 16:06
  • Why is that? Why transgenderism is classified different than mental disorders? I need to know the scientific reasoning behind it. Jan 18, 2020 at 16:08
  • @linker The care that leads to best outcomes for people experiencing gender incongruence is affirmation care, which can include acceptance of gender identity from a social/psychological perspective as well as medical interventions like hormonal treatments and sometimes surgery. So, for some people it seems like treating their body as "wrong" makes more sense, while others in supportive circumstances may identify as transgender without any substantial distress such that intervention is unnecessary.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 18, 2020 at 17:26

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