World Health Org panel finds so-called "LGBT-related disorders" baseless, harmful

A World Health Organization (WHO) panel, upon review, recommends that "homosexuality-related psychological disorders" be removed from the most widely used diagnostic reference book because such categories are harmful and scientifically baseless. The Advocate and Science Magazine broke the story.

According to the current International Classification of Diseases (ICD), being gay or a lesbian is not in itself considered a psychological disorder. However, disorders that seem connected with a person's experience of being LGBT, or disorders rooted in antiquated beliefs about LGBT identities, are still categorized as "homosexuality-related." The descriptions of said categories also appear to conflate gender identity and sexual orientation.

For example, "sexual maturation disorder" considers an LGBT person to be sexually immature in one's development and, consequentially, that person is facing heightened anxiety and depression.

"Under the [current] classification, a lesbian teenager could find herself labeled mentally ill, merely because she is 'grappling with conflicting or confusing sexual desires,'" Diane Anderson-Minshall at The Advocate explained.

The panel's report states:

This chapter includes categories for diagnoses based primarily on sexual orientation even though ICD-10 states that sexual orientation alone is not a disorder. This article reviews the scientific evidence and clinical rationale for continuing to include these categories in the ICD. A review of the evidence published since 1990 found little scientific interest in these categories. In addition, the Working Group found no evidence that they are clinically useful: they neither contribute to health service delivery or treatment selection nor provide essential information for public health surveillance. Moreover, use of these categories may create unnecessary harm by delaying accurate diagnosis and treatment. The Working Group recommends that these categories be deleted entirely from ICD-11. Health concerns related to sexual orientation can be better addressed using other ICD categories.

Under the group's proposed changes, instead of the hypothetical lesbian teenager being considered anxious because she's "stunted in her development," WHO would consider her anxiety to be the issue, not her identity, and recommend that she be treated accordingly. While LGBT folks experience comparatively higher rates of anxiety to their non-LGBT peers, this is most often attributed to anti-LGBT sentiments in social and political systems.

Other "homosexuality-related disorders" include ego-dystonic sexual orientation (when a person wishes they weren't LGBT), sexual relationship disorder (when "gender identity or sexual preference abnormality is responsible for difficulties in forming or maintaining a relationship with a sexual partner), other psychosexual development disorders, and an unspecified psychosexual development disorder.

For further perspective, a bisexual person who has trouble forming relationships because one's partners are prone to dismiss one's bi identity would be labeled mentally ill. As if dating wasn't already hard enough, am I right?

“It is not justifiable from a clinical, public health or research perspective for a diagnostic classification to be based on sexual orientation," the report states, asserting that the next ICD edition "can address the needs of people with a same-sex orientation in a manner consistent with good clinical practice, existing human rights principles and the mission of WHO."

Before the panel's recommendation can be put into effect, it will undergo additional reviews, a vote by health representatives in 170 countries, and field tests around the world. Pushback is expected from health ministers in nations that are particularly unhospitable to their LGBT citizens. For example, upon being presented with the report, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni assembled his own working group that countered the WHO panel's findings

I recommend reading the full report, about 5 pages long, here.

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