Mental Health

Is being trans or gender diverse a ‘mental illness’?

NO, absolutely not. Just because you do not identify with your assigned sex at birth or comply with socially constructed gender roles does not mean you have a mental illness.

According to a 2017 poll, 1 in 5 people believe that being transgender is a mental illness 1 despite significant changes in the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) DSM-5 in 2013. ‘Gender Identity Disorder’ has been replaced with ‘Gender Dysphoria’ in an attempt to remove any stigma and the connotation of being ‘disordered’ 2. Furthermore, the American Psychological Association states that “a psychological state is considered a mental disorder only if it causes significant stress and disability” and “many transgender people do not experience their gender as distressing or disabling, which implies that identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder” 3.

The APA feels that gender dysphoria should remain as a diagnostic term to protect access of trans and gender diverse patients to healthcare, but should “not be used against them in social, occupational, or legal areas” 2. Most countries, Australia included, support this notion although countries such as Denmark are beginning to abandon the term in medical practice altogether to prevent stigmatisation and indirect discrimination 4.