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World Mental Health Day 2020

10 October 2020 –On World Mental Health Day, GATE joins the international call for universal access to mental healthcare and its coverage, to dismantle all human rights violations in psycho-medical institutions, and to ensure access to rehabilitation, truth and reparations to victims of such violations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exponentially increased the mental health challenges faced by humankind in general, in particular affecting the most vulnerable groups in society. Among those groups, trans and gender diverse people have faced challenges such as mobility restrictions enforced by police based on legal gender, domestic confinement in hostile conditions, the impact of the global economic crisis on formal and informal work, including sex work, and the loss of supportive community spaces. This situation has harshly affected many racialized, poor, migrant, incarcerated and/or homeless trans and gender diverse people around the world.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of our communities have been magnified by an escalation of transphobia in social, institutional and media settings. This escalation has included, for example, flagrant setbacks in the rights to legal recognition of gender identity and gender affirmation procedures, as well as public campaigns that incite fear and hatred. These campaigns have, for example, called for exclusion of our communities from shelters for victims of gender-based violence, harassment of families and groups that support trans and gender-diverse children and adolescents, and criminalization of physical and mental health professionals supporting our communities. Attacks against the human rights of trans and gender diverse people have also included public calls to re-pathologize us and to re-categorize our gender identities, gender expressions and sexualities as symptoms of mental health disorders.

The current escalation of transphobia does not come only from “conservative” anti-gender movements, such as those comprised of right-wing individuals, groups, institutions, media, political parties and/or governments; it also comes from so-called “radical” sectors, including feminist and LGB individuals, groups and networks. These sectors exercise a visible influence upon mainstream media, as well as in central, and even left-wing, political parties and governments. One of the most destructive points of agreement between “conservative” and “radical” groups is the promotion of so-called “conversion therapies” against trans and gender diverse people, including teenagers and children.

In 2019, the World Health Assembly approved the eleventh version of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), produced by the World Health Organization (WHO) after more than a decade of work. One of the most decisive results of this process was the affirmation that the gender identities, gender expressions and sexualities of trans and gender diverse people are not pathologies. This same position was reiterated by the UN Independent Expert on SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) in his reports presented in 2018 and 2020. The devastating consequences of the psycho-medical and legal pathologization of trans and gender diverse people were also denounced in the Reports presented by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in 2013 and 2016, and by the UN Special Rapporteur on Health in 2017. By calling to re-pathologize us, to restrict our access to basic human rights and to subject us to practices that amount to torture, cruel and inhumane treatment, anti-trans movements are contradicting both medical and human rights standards internationally.

On World Mental Health Day 2020, GATE calls upon institutions, organizations and individuals everywhere to ensure the following:

  • We demand all States, in particular those participating and leading the Equal Rights Coalition, to fully guarantee the human rights of trans and gender diverse people at all stages of their lives.
  • We urge the World Health Organization, the World Association of Professionals for Trans Health (WPATH), the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) and all professional associations working in the field of trans health to speak out decisively in favor of the human rights of trans and gender diverse people.
  • We require international human rights organizations and mechanisms to pay urgent attention to “conservative” and “radical” anti-gender movements as a real threat to trans and gender diverse people’s human rights.
  • We demand mainstream media and social media organizations to stop making room for “debates” about our human rights, including our right to live. Our lives are not up for debate.
  • We encourage public and private foundations, governments and individual donors to support activist initiatives directly led by trans and gender diverse people, and to join fundraising efforts to increase available support for them.
  • We call upon our allies, including the women, feminist, LGBQI+, sexual and reproductive rights, and human rights movements, to speak out and affirm trans and gender diverse peoples’ human rights.
  • We recognize everywhere and at all levels of advocacy trans and gender-diverse activists who work to ensure full access to mental health services and treatments, who fight against human rights violations in mental health institutions, and who are victims and survivors of those violations.
  • We invite everybody to join us in commemorating the upcoming International Day of Action for Trans Depathologization on October 21, 2020.

In solidarity,

The GATE Team