LGBT people have ‘organic disorder’, deputy minister claims

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said it would be incorrect to assume all LGBT individuals suffered from mental health issues, claiming they simply had a brain aberration. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said it would be incorrect to assume all LGBT individuals suffered from mental health issues, claiming they simply had a brain aberration. — Picture by Farhan Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, August 13 — Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals are not mentally ill, but suffer an “organic disorder”, Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye claimed today.

He said it would be incorrect to assume all LGBT individuals suffered from mental health issues, claiming they simply had a brain aberration.

“If you look at magnetic resonance imaging scans of the human brain, you can see certain physical differences in the brain that causes them to behave as such,” Dr Lee told the Dewan Rakyat today.

He was answering a query by Kuala Terengganu MP Ahmad Amzad Mohamed Hashim, who had asked if the ministry considered LGBT to be a mental illness.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reportedly removed transsexualism from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) last June. The diagnosis was renamed “gender incongruence” instead and moved to the manual’s “conditions related to sexual health” chapter from its chapter on “mental and behavioural disorders”.

The ICD is reportedly used in most countries except for the United States and Canada that use the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM dropped “homosexuality” as a mental disorder in 1974.

Last year, the DSM-5 reportedly removed “gender identity dysphoria” as a mental disorder and replaced it with “gender dysphoria”, which applies only if one suffers significant distress from a mismatch between their gender identity and assigned sex.

However, Dr Lee did not address the second part of Ahmad Amzad’s question if a purported doctor based in Pasir Mas, Kelantan, would face disciplinary action from the ministry following her open letter to social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir that insinuated blood from LGBT donors was suspect.

Nur Ilyani Mohamed Nawawi, who claimed to be a doctor, wrote the open letter via a Facebook post to Marina last Monday.

Although she said she did not mistreat her LGBT patients, Nur Ilyani wrote that others also wanted the right to live in peace and free of an abnormal lifestyle and the diseases it carried.

The subsequent response was divided. Facebook deleted Nur Ilyani’s post for violating community guidelines and she received a stern warning from the Malaysian Medical Association to treat all patients equally. However, other people supported Nur Ilyani.

To date the ministry has yet to confirm if Nur Ilyani will face action over her open letter.

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