Israel declassifies being trans as a mental disorder in ‘important and significant step for the community’

Israel confirms being trans is not a mental disorder in ‘important step'

Two years after the World Health Organization and 11 years after France, Israel has finally agreed that being trans is not a mental disorder.

New guidelines, drafted by Israel’s health ministry after three years of consulting with LGBT+ and trans organisations, set out how hospitals and healthcare facilities must treat transgender people.

The guidance directs that hospitals and healthcare facilities must have at least one staff member trained in trans awareness, use a trans person’s correct pronouns regardless of the gender on their official documents, and to provide unisex facilities where possible while allowing trans people to use gendered spaces in accordance with their gender identity.

Ministers also noted that so-called conversion therapy that tries to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity has no ethical or professional basis, as well as confirming that being trans is not a psychological disorder.

“Transgender people, or people on the trans spectrum, is an umbrella term used to describe people who span a broad spectrum of gender identities, distinctive from the one they were identified with and registered as at birth,” the guidance says, according to Haaretz.

“People from this population group are at high risk of suffering physical and verbal violence, discrimination in employment and a lack of access to public resources being treated as social outcasts, which can worsen psychological distress and lead to susceptibility to a high rate of illness relative to the rest of the population,” the guidelines continue.

“This is particularly noticeable when it comes to mental health.”

Ella Amest, co-director general of trans advocacy group Ma’avarim, said the new guidelines are “an important and significant step for the community and for the health system”.

“Many of us require psychological services due to our confrontations with transphobia, beyond the more common reasons experienced by the rest of the population, but the system doesn’t always know how to treat us,” Amest said.

She added: “The guidelines provide those who work in the field with substantive, clear tools and support from above. We hope that more and more public services will adopt this process and formulate similar guidelines together with trans spectrum organisations.”

The new guidance on how to treat trans people in healthcare settings follows joint recommendations, made in December 2020, by the Justice and Social Welfare Ministries that suggested implementing sweeping reforms to trans rights in Israel.

The raft of new policies came as part of its ongoing efforts to tackle the “exhausting, frustrating and bureaucratic” hurdles that trans people face when updating their legal name or gender.

Deputy attorney general Dina Zilber and deputy director general of the Social Affairs Ministry Avi Motola wrote in an interim report that gender markers and names on government-issued documents should be able to be changed via self-declaration.

The policy, Haaretz reported, would have trans citizens’ declarations authenticated by a lawyer or the Administrator General’s Office. Documents and forms should also provide a third gender option, “other”, they advised.