France no longer considers transsexualism to be a mental illness, making it the first country in the world to remove it from its list of mental disorders.
Some activists view Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot’s removal of transsexualism from the list of mental disorders as a progressive move that recognizes an outdated notion of mental disorders and the social progress transgenders have made in France. But the change does not yet advance legal status or medical rights for trans people.
“It’s a symbolic victory,” says Georges-Louis Tin, president of the Paris-based IDAHO committee, which fights homophobia and transphobia. "They're normal citizens. But we haven't yet reached the point where they're allowed to make their own decisions instead of depending on doctors and psychiatrists."
Despite the decision, France is not generally considered to be a leader in equality for sexual minorities. Though the state does pay for gender reassignment surgeries and treatments, patients have little choice of medical practitioners. Doctors, too, complain of being poorly trained and equipped for such surgeries, and of a stigma attached to doctors who do perform surgeries. Many seeking surgery choose to cross the border into Belgium for surgery. In additional, transgenders are required to have gender reassignment surgery to change their gender legally.