The World Health Organization is considering a change that could help millions of people who are wrongfully told that they’re sick, simply because they are lesbian, gay or bisexual.
The WHO oversees the International Classification of Diseases, the most widely used diagnostic reference book in modern medicine, even more so than the DSM. Now, a WHO panel has recommended that a code describing five “homosexuality-related psychological disorders” be removed from the book.
The disorders include sexual maturation, which according to Science is “when uncertainty about sexual orientation makes a person depressed or anxious.” UCLA epidemiologist Susan Cochran told Underwood that this classification is rooted in Freudian theory and views “homosexuality” as merely an “immature” state of sexual development, rather than it’s own orientation. But under the classification, a lesbian teenager could find herself labeled mentally ill, merely because she is “grappling with conflicting or confusing sexual desires.”
Cochran led the WHO panel that looked over decades of epidemiological and psychological studies on sexual orientation and mental health. Their report summary: “It is not justifiable from a clinical, public health or research perspective for a diagnostic classification to be based on sexual orientation.”
The group recommended that all sexual orientation classifications be eliminated from the ICD both because they “lack scientific basis or clinical utility,” but also because, as Cochran told Science, it’s a ”human rights issue.”
The suggestion still faces several rounds of review and a vote by ministers of health from more than 170 countries. Other officials have noted that while they expect huge pushback from countries where homosexuality is still a crime, the harsh conditions faced by LGBT people in those countries proves that now’s the time to take this statement off the books for good.