First in the world: Denmark MPs approve removing 'transgender' from mental illness list

© Francois Lenoir
Transgender people in Denmark will soon no longer be classified as having a mental illness, lawmakers from the parliament's Health Committee have decided. The move has been hailed as a victory by rights groups.

The decision, which will take effect on January 1, 2017, was made by Danish lawmakers on Tuesday. As of that date, the word “transgender” will no longer appear on Denmark's official list of mental illnesses.

“Trans people in Denmark feel stigmatized when they are diagnosed as having a ‘mental disorder,’” Social Democrat spokesman Flemming Møller Mortensen told Ritzau news agency.

“We will be the first in the world to remove transgender as a diagnosis. The Health Committee has approved removing transgender from [the Danish Health and Medicines Authority] Sundhedsstyrelsen’s list of mental disorders if the World Health Organization (WHO) hasn’t done so by then,” Mortensen added.

The move is aimed at putting pressure on the WHO, which still classifies transsexualism as a mental disorder. Earlier this month, Mortensen said that Denmark has “run out of patience” with the organization and will “go it alone.”

The WHO has said it plans to discuss the proposed change later this year.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has praised the move.

“This is a huge step – not just for transgender people in Denmark but around the world – that Danish politicians have so clearly approved removing transgender from the list of mental illnesses,” Trine Christensen, Amnesty’s general secretary in Denmark, said in a statement.

“This makes Denmark a pioneer country for transgender rights,” Christensen added.

The move was also hailed as a victory by rights group LGBT Denmark.

"To remove transgender from the section of mental disorders means removing an institutionalized stigmatization of trans people," spokeswoman Linda Thor Pedersen said.

The move was also celebrated on social media, with one Twitter user calling it a “great victory for equality.”

Mortensen said the move is particularly important to Denmark because it “wants to be a front-runner, like when we became the first country in the world to recognize same sex partnership” in 1989, AP reported.

The next step in the process will be for the government to submit a formal proposal to change the Health Ministry's guidelines.