The World Health Organization (WHO) is facing scrutiny over the composition of its transgender health policy committee.
Criticisms center on the qualifications of its members, with only half of the 21 experts holding formal medical training. The committee, influential in shaping global gender dysphoria treatment guidelines, includes a mix of gender activists, social justice advocates, human rights lawyers, and policy advisors.
The committee’s most controversial member, Florence Ashley, a trans TikToker and assistant professor at the University of Alberta, is recognized for their unconventional views on trans issues, including opposition to mental health assessments for trans children seeking puberty blockers and hormone drugs.
Ashley, who uses “they, them, that, bitch” pronouns, per the Post Millennial and the Daily Mail, and also has as “be gay, do crimes” tattoo, co-wrote a study claiming that puberty blockers and hormone therapy “ought to be treated as the default option” for any child expressing discomfort with their gender.
This viewpoint, along with claims from another member dismissing health risks associated with transitioning, has sparked concerns among women’s rights and LGBTQ+ organizations about a potential ‘trans bias’ within the WHO.
The Daily Mail reports that the composition of the committee, which includes seven transgender members and eight doctors, is also being questioned for its representation.
Notably, several members are affiliated with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), a group criticized for allegedly promoting medication-centric treatments.
The expertise of the medically trained members, primarily in HIV/AIDS control and prevention, raises further questions about their suitability for developing guidelines on gender-affirming care.
WHO spokesperson Tarik Jašarević stated that the upcoming guidelines would focus exclusively on adults, not on controversial treatments for children. Despite this, some panel members support such treatments for minors. Internal disagreements within the UN have also emerged, with the UN special rapporteur on violence against women and girls criticizing the panel’s one-sided composition.
Reem Alsalem, the rapporteur, expressed concerns about conflicts of interest and the exclusion of stakeholders with divergent views, notably those from European public health authorities favoring a cautious approach to youth gender transitions.
The WHO panel aims to set global standards for increasing access to respectful and quality health services for trans and gender-diverse people. This includes policies on transition care, gender-inclusive health policies, and legal rights for gender expression.
Psychotherapist Stella O’Malley, from the campaign group Genspect, criticized the WHO for its narrow approach, highlighting the lack of diverse perspectives on the panel.
An online petition, with over 8,000 signatories including professionals and parents of detransitioners, calls for the WHO to halt the committee’s meeting and reassess its composition. Jamie Reed, a whistleblower and executive director of the LGBT Courage Coalition, labeled the panel as agenda-driven and lacking scientific expertise.
The petition also criticizes the WHO’s expedited process for guideline development, arguing that it does not allow sufficient time for stakeholder consultation or evidence review.