Having "run out of patience" with the World Health Organization, Denmark on Jan. 1, 2017, will become the first country to no longer define being transgender as a mental illness, the Independent reports. Currently, the WHO classifies being transgender as a mental or behavioral disorder. And, although the organization is reassessing that stance, progress has been "characteristically slow." Classifying transgender people as having a disorder, one Danish government official says, is "incredibly stigmatizing and in no way reflects how we see transgender people in Denmark." And it creates practical problems for transgender people, he adds, such as denial of health insurance.
Denmark, the Independent notes, has been criticized in the past for forcibly sterilizing transgender people and requiring medical approval before they could be legally recognized as a different gender. Thanks to a 2014 ruling, however, adults can now choose their gender without medical approval. Linda Thor Pedersen of LGBT Denmark tells the Local that being transgender "is a natural variation, like being left-handed," adding that some think transgender people are mentally ill simply because of the way it has been classified: "This proposal can make a big difference toward changing that." In 2012, according to Think Progress, the American Psychiatric Association declassified being transgender as a mental disorder.