Denmark has become the first country in the world to no longer classify being transgender as a mental illness. The move, which came into effect as of January first, was decided on in 2016, intended to put pressure on the World Health Organization, who has yet to remove being transgender form its list of mental disorders.
The Deputy Chairman of the Danish health committee, Flemming Moller Mortensen, said at the time that “It is completely inappropriate to call it a sickness.” Government officials were also quoted as saying that they had “run out of patience” with the WHO. Those sentiments were echoed by Amnesty International who said, “Amnesty would also like to commend the government for its effort in the WHO, where it has worked to have the disease classification system changed.”
It has been a busy beginning to 2017 for Denmark. Also making headlines over the past week is the announcement from the Sexology Clinic in Copenhagen, that the number of minors undergoing hormone treatment surged from an anticipated 50 minors to 130 last year.
Just before the holidays, Denmark also caught the attention of the LGBT community with a new holiday ad featuring a transgender teen for the electrical retailer Elgiganten.
Denmark, which has traditionally been seen as the more conservative of Scandinavian countries, is not the only country off to a good start for the new year. Neighboring Sweden scored second place earlier this week as the country most supportive of transgender rights out of 23 surveyed (Denmark was not included).
The flood of good news from the north may not come as a surprise for some. Scandinavia has historically been seen as a stronghold of social rights. In 1972, Sweden became the first country in Western Europe to adopt a procedure allowing people to change their gender. In 2014, Denmark became the first European country to allow a legal gender change without a medical statement. Finally, Norway got rid of procedures altogether last year. Citizens can now simply change their gender with the click of a mouse.
No country is perfect, however.
While these headlines are encouraging sign, the northern nations have, in recent years, fallen behind with respect to legislation and the guaranteed rights of LGBT people. In 2016, Finland remained a sore spot on Transgender Europe’s annual Trans Rights Map, as they still require sterilization of trans people.
In the ILGA 2016 Country Rankings, all Scandinavian nations were in the top ten, but only Norway etched above the top 5 mark.
Far to the south of Scandinavia, it is Malta that is generally regarded as the country leading the way for LGBT rights at present. The island nation sprang to the number 1 spot of the ILGA Rainbow Index this year and has led Europe in a series of historic legislative actions. In April, it enacted the Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act. The bill, according to the TGEU, “recognizes the right of each person to their gender identity and the free development thereof.“ Malta also became the first European nation to criminalize conversion therapy earlier this month.