WHO to Update Manual on Gender Diversity: ‘Sex Is Not Limited to Male or Female’
The WHO will solicit feedback through the fall on the update to its manual
The World Health Organization says sex “is not limited to male or female” amid new plans to update a manual to recognize gender and sexual diversity.
The move wades into the fiery debate about whether gender is strictly binary or something more complicated.
The WHO will solicit feedback through the fall on the update to its manual, which details how gender norms, roles, and relations affect health-related behaviors and outcomes.
The WHO added it is “going beyond non-binary approaches to gender and health to recognize gender and sexual diversity, or the concepts that gender identity exists on a continuum and that sex is not limited to male or female.”
The global health body is still working on the guidance.
However, it could find itself embroiled in a wider debate about sex, typically defined by biological traits, and gender, which typically refers to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones.
Meanwhile, some states cracked down on transgender athletes participating in female sports, while texas is investigating gender-affirming care as child abuse.
For years, states and localities have debated whether bathrooms should be divided by sex and some parent groups do not want school curricula for younger students to involve talk of gender identity.
While the final guidance still has to be determined, critics said the WHO risks undermining health advice for professionals.
Professor Jenny Gamble, a midwifery expert from Coventry University, described the change as “problematic” in an interview with The Daily Mail.
“It is a dismissal of basic biology — and mistake,” she said.
“Biology is a key determinant of health and illness."
“Not being clear about basic biology opens the door to a range of problems."
"These include very poor health communication but also distorted data,” she said.
“The wording regarding there being more than male and female sexes is concerning,” Dr. Karleen Gribble told the outlet.
“The website says that the handbook is being updated in light of new scientific evidence and conceptual progress on gender, health and development.”
But there’s no “scientific evidence” suggesting more than two sexes, Gribble said.
“Rather, the idea that there are more than two sexes, is a postmodern, unscientific understanding that should not be supported by the WHO,” she said.
WHO officials may be updating its guidance to be more inclusive of intersex individuals, but Gribble believes the new manual may be “inaccurate and stigmatizing.”
She’s also worried that women of all ages will suffer considering the increased focus on gender identity.
“If this occurs, this will almost certainly dilute focus on the severe health disadvantage that women and girls face in many countries because they are female, which can only be a bad thing,” Gribble told the Daily Mail.
“’Many of us who work internationally in maternal and child health are very concerned about the push to desex language spilling over into UN organizations like WHO and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund.”
The WHO this month also said it will expand on the concept of intersectionality, “which looks at how gender power dynamics interact with other hierarchies of privilege or disadvantage, resulting in inequality and differential health outcomes for different people.”