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World Health Organisation announces review of gender medicine : an exercise in policy capture

Updated: Jan 13




A petition has been launched to challenge the proposed panel membership of the WHO gender medicine panel – but the deadline for signing it is 7th January


Imagine that you are charged with advising governments around the world about best practice in healthcare.  There are many areas of healthcare, of course.  What constitutes ‘best practice’ in some of them is relatively uncontentious.  Best practice in other areas, however, may be highly contended, and nowhere is this more true than in the area of gender medicine.

How would you go about drawing up advice in such a difficult area?  Perhaps you would familiarize yourself with the responsible range of scientific and medical views on the matter, and perhaps, when selecting a panel to draw up guidelines, you would ensure that the panel reflected the range of opinion on the matter under consideration.  Perhaps, realizing the complexity of the area and the lack of high-quality evidence in some domains, you would ensure plenty of time for the panel to complete its work.

Then there is the World Health Organization way of doing things.  On 18th December they announced that a panel had been formed, and that it would be meeting from 19th to 21st February in order to draw up guidelines on transgender healthcare (WHO announces the development of a guideline on the health of trans and gender diverse people).  They say that objections to the membership of the panel can be lodged with WHO by 8th January – which, given the Christmas and New Year holidays, amounts to twelve working days from the announcement on 18th December to respond.  In fact, there are good reasons to object to the make-up of the panel: the membership is dominated by proponents of the affirmative model, whilst gender-critical voices are notable by their absence.  You can read more about the panel here - biographies_tgd-gdg_proposed_members_2024.pdf (who.int)

There are two ways of objecting to this.  First, you can make your objection directly to the WHO by emailing hiv-aids@who.int

Second, the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine (SEGM) has created an online petition calling for review of the panel membership and the timescale for production of guidelines (www.who-decides.org) .  In common with others, I shall be adding my name to the petition, and I invite you to do so too.  However, I am doubtful whether it will make much difference to the composition of the panel.  The value in signing the petition is showing that there is a lack of confidence in the process, more than in changing the process.

So, for what it is worth, here are my predictions regarding the WHO gender guidelines:

  1. Despite objections being raised to the constitution of the panel, WHO will go ahead with the current membership, or something very close to it.

  2. If there are any changes to the panel, they will be in the form of window-dressing.  Serious gender-critical voices will be kept well away from panel membership.

  3. The recommendations of the panel will inevitably reflect the biases of the panel’s members.  They will produce guidance which is broadly consistent with the WPATH Standards of Care (Version 8) – you know the one, it’s the one that adds ‘eunuch’ to the ever-expanding list of possible gender identities.  They will produce guidelines that are wholly affirmative in nature; for example, conflating exploratory therapy with conversion therapy, and insisting that, if a child says that they are trans, they must therefore be trans.


If I am right, and the panel goes ahead as presently constituted, you might be wondering whether it’s worth signing the petition.  I think that it is.  Sometimes all that we can do is to stand up for what we believe in.  But signing the petition will show that there was a body of dissenting individuals that saw through the politicking of WHO and were concerned enough to make their feelings known.


Then again, I may be wrong.  Sometimes, when enough people stand up for what they believe in, change happens.



John Higgon, Clinical Psychologist

Convener, ScotPAG

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