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15 May, 2024 23:38

South American country labels transgenderism a mental illness

Peru’s government has sparked controversy by altering its official classification of trans and intersex people
South American country labels transgenderism a mental illness

The Peruvian government has officially categorized transgender and non-binary people as “mentally ill,” triggering fears that LGBTQ citizens will be more stigmatized and potentially lose freedoms in the conservative South American country.

The revision was approved in a decree by President Dina Boluarte last week, defining ‘transsexualism’ and ‘gender identity disorder in children’ as mental illnesses. Also included in that category are ‘dual-role transvestism’, ‘fetishistic transvestism’, and ‘other gender-identity disorders’.

The Peruvian Health Ministry later followed up on the decision, explaining that the reclassification was decreed only to “guarantee full coverage of medical attention for mental health” under the country’s Essentials Health Insurance Plan. The ministry also tried to assuage fears that the revised language could lead to infringements on civil liberties, such as forcing trans people to undergo conversion therapy.

Boluarte, a former member of the Marxist-Leninist Free Peru political party, took office in December 2022 as the country’s first female president. She has emphasized social conservatism, providing common ground with Peru’s conservative congressional majority. Lawmakers have removed gender ideology and references to gender equality from school textbooks.

LGBTQ activists have raised the alarm over the decision to label transgender people as mentally ill. Jheinser Pacaya, director of OutFest Peru, argued that 100 years on from decriminalizing homosexuality, the country’s government “has nothing better to do than to include trans people in the category of mental illness. We demand, and we will not rest, until its repeal.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) dropped ‘gender identity disorder’ from its global manual of diagnoses in 2019. However, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders includes a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

The UK’s National Health System (NHS) describes gender dysphoria as a “sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.” The NHS adds that gender dysphoria is “not a mental illness, but some people may develop mental health problems because of gender dysphoria.”