The WHO tells me I’m ill - but I’ve never been better

The World Health Organisation need to remove transsexuality from its list of mental illnesses - I'm trans, not mentally ill.

Maxwell Zachs
Sunday 21 October 2012 15:36 BST

It's been a good few years since I first stood in a doctors office and confessed my desire, no, my need to transition.

Since then I've spent hundreds of hours in various doctors offices, waiting rooms, hospitals, and surgical units. Exempting one or two positive occasions I have been treated in the most horrific and degrading manner on almost every occasion by the medical staff who were employed to look after me.

In 2010 I went to my local GP in North London with severe bronchitis, the doctor treated me with complete respect until he saw the dramatic scars that divide my torso in two - the place where my breasts were removed. After seeing this he refused to touch me or listen to my chest and insisted on re-booking me with a different doctor - a female one. This wasn't an isolated experience; I've had doctors refuse to register me, refuse to prescribe me hormones and refuse me sexual health screening. I'm confident that if you ask any trans person they will regale you with a long, very long, list of medical horror stories.

Our petition for the World Health Organisation to remove trans people from the list of mental illnesses is about wanting to change the way medical professionals think about trans people. It is about saying we have the same rights as any other person, we are not mentally deficient, we are able to make sane sensible decisions about our lives, there is nothing deficient about our minds and the only way to 'cure' transsexuality is for our society to give up its illogical and unscientific attachment to gender binary.

Just for the record, I wasn't born into the wrong body. I was born into the wrong world, one that would rather crush my free spirit than let me express myself in anyway I chose.

I have benefitted from a vast amount of medical and therapeutic assistance (however reluctant my doctors were) on my journey to explore and evolve my gender, but the ridiculous reliance on mental health classification means that I had to lie to doctors to make myself fit into the psychological pigeonhole necessary to receive the treatment I required.

"I told him about trucks and toy-guns despite the fact that I spent my formative years running around in a sequin cape and purple Wellington boots"

I read the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders before my compulsory sessions with the psychiatrist and when he asked me about my childhood I told him about trucks and toy-guns despite the fact that I spent my formative years running around in a sequin cape and purple Wellington boots. When the psychiatrist asked me about my sexuality I told him all about my strong desire to have heterosexual relationships with women (another big fat lie!!). I even took in pictures of my little brother, and pretended it was me, in order to establish a credible timeline of early childhood cross dressing. Finally, the doctor certified me with Gender Dysphoria, a diagnosis based on convenient lies which has enabled me to radically and permanently alter my body.

Our petition to the WHO to remove transsexuality from its list of mental illnesses is about sending the message “I'm not sick or ill”. It is not, however, saying we don't need care or treatment. Quite rightly many people have worried that when gender identity disorders are removed from the list then an already reluctant medical hierarchy will have a really really good excuse to deny us treatment altogether. This is why we are urging the WHO to include trans people in any future creation of guidelines that govern and define our care.

Myself and the other creators of this petition completely support the 2011 resolution from the European Parliament which recommends that the WHO “withdraw gender identity disorders from the list of mental and behavioural disorders while ensuring a non-pathologizing re-coding in the 11th version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11)” - essentially to stop saying that we are mentally ill, but accept that we need these medical interventions to help us be who we really are.

Maxwell Zachs appeared in 'My Transsexual Summer' on Channel 4

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