The World Medical Association held is annual Assembly this past weekend in Moscow.
If you are like me, you've barely heard of the WMA, if at all. Established in 1947, the WMA's purpose is "to serve humanity by endeavoring to achieve the highest international standards in Medical Education, Medical Science, Medical Art and Medical Ethics, and Health Care for all people in the world." The organization had 106 constituent members and 1013 Associate members as of 2014.
Delegates from 60 national medical associations voted on Sunday to adopt new guidelines for physicians to increase their knowledge about, respect to and sensitivity towards "transgender people and the unique health issues they face."
The delegates from nearly 60 national medical associations adopted guidelines saying that being transgender is “not a disorder”, that “everyone has the right to determine their own gender, and that the WMA rejects “coercive treatment or forced behavior modification.”
Furthermore the WMA agreed that "every effort" should be undertaken to make available "individualized, multi-professional, interdisciplinary and affordable transgender healthcare."
The guidelines were proposed by the German Medical Association, which said they acknowledged the inequities faced by the transgender community and the crucial role played by physicians in advising transgender people and their families about treatment.
Delegates said they were aware of the cultural sensitivities in some parts of the world about this issue, but also said it was important for the WMA to stress that cultural, political or religious considerations must not take precedence over the rights, health and well-being of transgender people.
We condemn all forms of discrimination, stigmatisation and violence against transgender people and want to see appropriate legal measures to protect their equal civil rights.
And as role models, physicians should use their medical knowledge to combat prejudice in this respect. We would like national medical associations to take action to identify and combat barriers to care.
It is important that there is appropriate expert training for physicians at all stages of their career to enable them to recognise and avoid discriminatory practices, and to provide appropriate and sensitive transgender healthcare.
--WMA President, Sir Michael Marmot
WMA Secretary General Otmar Kloiber admitted that in the past some medical treatment of transgender people "has occurred with total disregard for their unique needs and often this has happened with the participation of the physician."
We greatly welcome the WMA transgender guidelines. The guidelines are an extremely positive step forward in recognition by medical professionals that all physicians should strive to ensure transgender people receive person-centred gender identity affirming healthcare, including access to hormones and surgeries.
The guidelines also back up our existing work pushing for physicians at all stages of their career to receive training on transgender healthcare. In the UK we continue to see some GPs obstructing trans people’s access to the hormone treatment and health monitoring recommended by their Gender Identity Clinic and failing to update the gender on trans people’s medical records. Such behaviour by GPs is unacceptable.
We urge the British Medical Association, which is a member of the WMA, to ensure these guidelines are strongly and swiftly communicated to all UK doctors.
--James Morton, Scottish Transgender Alliance
Earlier this year, the Council of Europe, called for the protection of transgender rights and for abolishing unnecessary cumbersome procedures to change legal gender, and called for accessible and affordable transgender-specific healthcare.
In order to have desired gender legally recognized by the government, most countries in Europe require transgender people to undergo genital removal surgery and sterilization, be diagnosed with a mental disorder and get divorced if married.
Last week the European Parliament called for member states to outlaw discrimination against transgender people in employment.
The report further called for member states which fail to protect transgender people to be held accountable.
Discrimination against transgender people in the workplace is unacceptable. This was a non-binding vote in the Parliament, and change will not come through such votes alone. The challenge to change the culture is far greater.
As Vice President of the Parliament’s LGBTI intergroup I have been pushing for action to address the issues faced by transgender individuals, most recently writing to the Polish Government.
--Ian Duncan, MEP for the Scottish Conservative Party
Half of all transgender people in the EU say they have experienced discrimination when searching for a job and over one-third have experienced discrimination at work.
This situation cannot continue. We must clearly enshrine rights for transgender people into EU anti-discrimination law, and ensure this is properly implemented by national governments in all 28 EU countries.
--Catherine Bearder, MEP for the British Liberal Democrats
Opposition to the action mostly came from the European People's Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists group (which is headed by the UK Conservative Party).
In 2014 Amnesty International estimated that there are up to 1.5 million transgender people across the European Union.