The World Health Organization's latest update is a big win for trans people — and science.

We're learning a lot more about gender.

The World Health Organization recently announced a big change to its International Classification of Diseases database, and that's good news for trans people.

The ICD is a centuries-old catalog tracking pretty much every medical condition you could possibly think of. With the release of its 11th edition, the WHO moved gender incongruence — the diagnostic term applied to trans people — from the catalog's mental health section to its new home under sexual health conditions.

In a video explaining the decision to reclassify the condition, Dr. Lale Say, the coordinator of the WHO's Department of Reproductive Health and Research, explains that recent discoveries helped inform the action.


GIF from World Health Organization/YouTube.

"It was taken out from mental health disorders because we had [a] better understanding that this wasn't actually a mental health condition, and leaving it there was causing stigma," she said. "So in order to reduce the stigma while also ensuring access to necessary health interventions, this was placed into a different chapter."

The WHO's official press release states that "evidence is now clear that it is not a mental disorder." In other words, there are specific medical needs associated with being transgender, so it didn't make sense to eliminate the diagnosis from the ICD completely. Exclusion from the ICD altogether could have resulted in trans people not being able to access things like hormone therapies and other transition-related care.

WHO's move echoes that of other medical organizations that have come out in support of trans people in recent years.

As WHO's release says, it is clear that being trans is not a mental disorder. Still, there's a strong misconception that persists. In 2014, the American Psychiatric Association updated its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) classification for trans people. What was once called "gender identity disorder" was updated to "gender dysphoria." Why the change? It's actually pretty similar to WHO's rationale:

"DSM-5 aims to avoid stigma and ensure clinical care for individuals who see and feel themselves to be a different gender than their assigned gender. It replaces the diagnostic name 'gender identity disorder' with 'gender dysphoria,' as well as makes other important clarifications in the criteria. It is important to note that gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder. The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition."

In 2014, the American Medical Association issued a resolution urging states to allow trans people to update identifying documents like birth certificates. The following year, they stated that there is "no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals" from the military (a call they renewed in light of President Trump's trans military ban). In 2016, they called on insurance companies to cover transition-related health care as they would any other medically necessary treatment. In 2017, the AMA came out against the use of so-called bathroom bills meant to prevent trans people from "accessing basic human services and public facilities in line with one’s gender identity, including, but not limited to, the use of restrooms."

Groups like the American Psychological Association, the American Association of Family Physicians, the National Association of Social Workers (whose position is gender dysphoria should be removed from the DSM entirely), the American Public Health Association, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health have all come out in favor providing affirming care for trans people.

The logo of the World Health Organization outside its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images.

The idea that trans people simply have a "mental disorder" is misleading and inaccurate.

Mental health is a fraught topic in the U.S., and the stigma surrounding it leads to some unfortunate misconceptions. Some may see the words "mental health" and conclude that whatever the problem is, it's all in a person's head and doesn't stem from a physical or biological origin. Of course, that's not the case. The same is true of being transgender.

People hold gay pride (forefront) and trans pride (background) flags during a pride parade in Bratislava, Slovakia. Photo by Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images.

The data is there to prove it. In 2014, writer Brynn Tannehill published an article defending the biological origins of gender dysphoria. Tannehill was writing in response to an article published by Fox News in which the author argued that transgender people simply didn't exist. Tannehill's rebuttal was jam-packed with data — citing 15 different studies supporting the idea that there is a biological basis to being transgender.

The science clearly favors one side: the side that believes trans people are who they say they are, the side that believes trans people should have access to medical care and legal protections against discrimination.

You may be asking yourself what this means for your everyday life. The answer: probably nothing, especially if you're not trans.

Being trans means having your existence and your identity constantly put up for debate. As someone who is trans, I know this well. It's exhausting, and too often, people will try to dispute my own existence (or the validity of it, at least) by citing "science." The truth is that it's just recently that "science" is coming to strong conclusions about trans people — and these new findings dispute the anti-trans arguments.

7-year-old transgender boy Jacob Lemay at his house in Melrose, Massachusetts, in 2017. At this age, there is no medical component to his transition, just social. Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

For decades, much of what we knew about gender dysphoria and its origins was based solely on a handful of imperfect studies put out by just a handful of imperfect researchers. Many of their dated, harmful, and highly disputed findings foster stigma that still exists today. The importance of groups like the World Health Organization, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Medical Association taking affirmative stands in support of trans people is that it reflects a better understanding of who trans people are and the evolving science around the issue.

We exist. It's science.

Watch this short video from the WHO explaining this update to the ICD.

Heroes

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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