Transgender Kenyans fear WHO re-classification will cause confusion

Members of the anti-gay caucus chant slogans against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community as they march along the streets of Nairobi, July 6, 2015. /REUTERS
Members of the anti-gay caucus chant slogans against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community as they march along the streets of Nairobi, July 6, 2015. /REUTERS

The Kenyan trans community fears that the re-classification of gender identity

from a mental disorder

to “conditions related to

sexual health

will result in misconceptions.

The community welcomed the move but noted that the new classification may result in the belief that this type of identity is a matter of sexual health, not gender.

“While doctors and other medical practitioners could argue that sex is a broad term defining a variety of issues, we all know how easy it is for such terms to be used against us,"

Barbra,

Executive

Director of the

East Africa Trans Health & Advocacy Network (EATHAN)

told the Star in email correspondence on Wednesday.

Last week, the World Health Organization re-categorised transgender identity, saying "evidence is now clear that it is not a mental disorder".

In the new online International Classification of Diseases (ICD), the WHO said gender incongruence "is characterised by marked and persistent incongruence between an individual's experienced gender and the assigned sex".

“The rationale [is] that while evidence is now clear that it is not a mental disorder, and indeed classifying it can cause enormous stigma for people who are transgender, there remains significant health care needs that can best be met if the condition is coded under the ICD.”

Barbra noted that the classification will ensure they are recognised by health workers, particularly psychologists and psychiatrists.

“They are the ones who diagnose

trans people

and give

them

the go-ahead to see other practitioners such as endocrinologists and surgeons

through issuing a letter of recommendation for further treatment," the director said.

"If psychologists understand that

gender incongruence

is a mental condition, they can properly diagnose

trans people

and provide

them

with the opening to further

their

medical

transition.” Barbra said.

Societal stigma and access to basic services are some of the challenges that trans communities in Kenya and other parts of the world face.

“Many people believe that trans people are extreme gays and should be punished for their behaviour. Many trans people cannot get jobs and access basic social amenities. When

they

try to,

they're questioned about their

gender, how

they

dress, how

they

look and other matters," Barbra said.

Trans communities in some parts of the world are uncomfortable with the term 'transgender', the argument being that it results in further victimisation.

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