World Health Organisation to push gender self-ID with new guidelines

10 January 2024

Public Policy Researcher Dr Carys Moseley writes on the World Health Organisation’s announcement about publishing new transgender health guidelines

Just before Christmas, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced that it would publish new transgender health guidelines.

A panel of 21 experts will meet between 19 and 24 February this year at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland to work on the guidelines. The membership of this panel has been criticised for being biased towards policies allowing gender self-identification 

WHO has a ‘Department for Gender, Health and Equity’ 

The organization responsible for these guidelines is the WHO’s Department for Gender, Health and Equity – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. It says volumes about the WHO’s attitude to healthcare that it uses the term ‘gender’ instead of acknowledging biological sex.  

Other WHO departments involved are the Global HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infection Programmes department, along with the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research department. 

Guidelines will promote gender self-identification 

The guidelines are said to focus on five different interrelated areas. As is evident from the wording, these are clearly skewed towards normalising gender self-identification.  

provision of gender-affirming care, including hormones; health workers education and training for the provision of gender-inclusive care; provision of health care for trans and gender diverse people who suffered interpersonal violence based in their needs; health policies that support gender-inclusive care, and legal recognition of self-determined gender identity.”   

Pretending not to be responsible for the guidelines 

There are questions to be asked about how accountable the WHO is in the way it is working on these guidelines.  

“Following WHO guidance for guideline development a guideline development group (GDG) will be composed of members from all WHO regions acting in their individual capacity (not representing any organization with which they are affiliated).”  

By not having to represent any organisation, the experts in the guideline development group can get away with just about anything they want without facing professional consequences.  

It is rather typical of UN agencies that this is backed up by a 179-page ‘Handbook on Guideline Development’ – in its second edition.  

Guideline Development Group membership 

The Guideline Development Group has 21 members. These are mostly trans/non-binary activists working in international organisations. Only a third have medical credentials, with the majority being human rights activists, lawyers or advisers on social policy. Three of them use the preferred pronoun ‘they’, which undoubtedly helps cement the use of ‘gender’ instead of sex. Several of these experts have previously been involved in drafting the recent versions of the World Professional Association of Transgender Health’s Standards of Care, which are heavily biased towards gender self-ID.  

The fanaticism of some of these activists knows no bounds. Florence Ashley lectures in law in Canada, and believes that puberty blockers should be given to all children. The excuse given for this is so that all children can choose their ‘gender’ rather than it being ‘assigned by society’.  

Growing criticism from within the UN 

Not everybody at the United Nations is pleased with this state of affairs. Reem Alsalem, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, strongly criticised the biased nature of the group in a letter to the WHO’s director general. She pointed out that there were no experts on adolescent development, which is unacceptable as internationally, most people going to gender clinics are teenagers.  

Particularly egregious is the fact that Alsalem openly voiced the suspicion that healthcare professionals with a more cautious approach to the issues were not even invited in the first place 

Very short time to provide comments 

The WHO allowed people to submit comments on the guideline project by 8 January this year. This is a very short turnaround from 18 December last year – much shorter than for an official government consultation.  

This is totally unsurprising as it is a typical activist tactic to make such an announcement shortly before Christmas, in the hope that critics would be away on holiday for most of the time.   

No reference to detransitioners 

As is typical of such initiatives, the announcement makes no reference to detransitioners and those who regret trying to change ‘gender’. In this respect, the WHO is perpetuating the scandalous situation whereby no healthcare system in the entire world has any policies in place to care for such people.  

Therapists petition the WHO for change to processes 

Therapists from different countries are very concerned about the processes for developing these new WHO guidelines. They have started a petition making several demands for change, such as: 

  • The WHO should appoint people with different perspectives 
  • The WHO should extend the time available for the public to send comments 
  • The WHO should cancel the meeting scheduled for February 
  • The WHO should deal with the conflicts of interest that the petitions identify among the Guideline Development Group members 
  • The WHO needs to display transparency in its selection of participants 
  • The WHO needs to show it has a plan for balancing different views and facilitating dialogue 
  • The WHO guidelines should be shown to rely on the best available evidence. If there is insufficient evidence, the WHO should be open about what the risks are and what isn’t known.  
  • The WHO should state openly what are the values driving any recommendations it makes for the guidelines.  

WHO removed ‘gender identity disorders’ from ICD 

None of this should be surprising to seasoned UN-watchers. For the World Health Organisation has previously supported the campaign to end classification of gender dysphoria as a mental illness 

In 2019 the WHO removed ‘gender identity disorders’ from the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, the ICD-11. This is the international manual used in healthcare to diagnose diseases. The term was replaced by ‘gender incongruence’, and this new category was placed under Sexual Health rather than Mental Health.  

What needs to be done? 

It is far from obvious that the World Health Organisation is really going to take note of this petition. This is because the UN is not sufficiently accountable to member states.

We have to ask how the WHO could be penalised if it didn’t do what the petitioners ask, such as display sufficient transparency, appoint experts who are less biased, and so on. Its workings are not scrutinised by any Parliamentary committee, at least not in the UK. Perhaps this is one way to get the ball rolling for real change.  

At the same time, this petition is still acting as if the WHO is an organisation worthy of the respect of the world’s countries. The time has surely come to stop acting with such deference. The WHO is clearly involved in pushing transgender policies onto people of all ages, particularly children and adolescents, and we need to ask whether member states should start withholding money from it.

An organisation that is this far gone down the rabbit hole will only change if it is threatened with being unable to act at all.  

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