Using a throwaway account on reddit/r/SGExams, one transgender student recalled her difficult experience in school, specifically with the Ministry of Education (MOE) allegedly interfering her hormone replacement therapy (HRT) treatment that was prescribed by her doctor after she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
The student recalled her experience in an all-boys-primary school, describing it as “the worse period of my life”.
She wrote, “I couldn’t fit in and constantly got bullied because I was ‘too soft’ and ‘needed to man up to the bullies’.
Things started looking up when she started attending a co-ed secondary school where she made more friends and started better understand her identity.
It was then that she was taken to the gender clinic at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). There, she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
When she informed the MOE of her diagnosis via her junior college (JC), the MOE replied was: “This is a new issue and we would like to work with you to learn more about it”, as she quoted in the post.
However, after several months when she was due to begin hormone therapy, there was a snag as the MOE intervened.
She wrote, “Then, as I was about to undergo hormone therapy (a treatment explicitly stated in the ICD-10, again, and recommended by the multiple doctors attending to trans patients in Singapore) the request was suddenly blocked as the MOE had intervened, apparently for the reason ‘students in MOE schools are under our control, and we have every right and say over their treatment’.”
As such, she said her doctor “had to call off the referral” and causing her further mental trauma as it affected her ability to present and pass as a female.
On top of that, she was also instructed to cut off her hair to fit into the approved boys’ hairstyle in the school’s handbook. She had to wear a uniform designed for male students.
If she proceeded with hormone therapy and is unable to fit into the male uniform, she was threatened with expulsion, instead of the school allowing her to wear the female uniform.
“The principal’s explanation for this was that ‘due to your presentation, you would be disruptive to the school environment as a student with severe autism’,” she recalled.
About the issues with the school dress code, she said: “That could probably have slipped under the radar but it seems unlikely as all these troubles started in the same month.”
She ended her post by asking, “What right does the MOE have over the MOH? Why is the MOE interfering with my medical care, and the irony of MOE advocating for mental health issues. I cannot speak for others, but in my experience, these are outright lies and just a farce to gain support from the younger generations of students.”
In a comment replying to another Redditor on the thread who suggested that the MOE would not intervene with her treatment without parental consent, she said that she was informed that the doctor has a meeting with higher-ups in the MOE.
She wrote, “I understand that MOE essentially reprimanded my doctor and told him not to write letter to schools or referrals for hormone therapy/treatment.”
Another person alleged that it was definitely the MOE’s fault, citing a similar case where both parents consented to their child undergoing HRT but the school did not allow it.
Worryingly, several replies to the thread shared similar incidents of LGBT students facing discrimination in schools.
Another transgender student said another transgender girl in her JC wasn’t allowed to start HRT because she did not “pass” enough—meaning she did not ‘pass’ as a girl—and the school would expel her for ruining its reputation and image if she started transitioning.
One Redditor who identified themselves as “one of the people running TransgenderSG” said that there have been much worse cases of schools and the MOE allegedly preventing students from transitioning and prohibiting doctors from giving them HRT which resulted in suicide.
Stories from other Redditors are just as harrowing.
From a girl’s exam results being withheld over allegations that she is a lesbian to a “gay witch-hunt” of LGBT students in a school and even “surprise conversion therapy”.
TransgenderSG’s joint report on transgender issues highlight impact of violence and discrimination against trans people in Singapore
Together with Sayoni, TransgenderSG has collaborated with the Asia Pacific Transgender Networl (APTN) on a joint stakeholder report to the United Nations, in preparation for Singapore’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) this year.
The report, which was released in October 2020, references data from the first nationwide survey of the country’s transgender community.
One of the six areas of concern highlighted in the report includes the discrimination, abuse and restrictions faced by transgender students.
Specifically, 77.6 per cent of transgender students surveyed by TransgenderSG reported negative experiences in school ranging from bullying to sexual abuse. Less than 30 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that they felt safe in school and only 24 per cent said they had a staff member they could reach out to for support.
In a statement on the report, TransgenderSG said, “School administrators have implemented unreasonable demands that pressure even high-performing transgender students to drop out of school, or sought to prevent them from transitioning or pursuing HRT, sometimes by contacting their healthcare providers without the student’s or their parents’ knowledge or consent.”
“This joint report on transgender rights is the most important document ever produced to understand the impact of violence and discrimination against transgender persons in Singapore,” said Jean Chong of Sayoni.
She said that while “state and non-state actors have sometimes paid lip service to the inclusion of trans persons, it is nonetheless difficult to square this with the systemic failure in their policies which leads to the lack of protection for transgender persons”.
Citing Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”, Ms Chong said: “Trans rights are human rights. Nothing more and nothing less.”
A spokesperson for Transgender SG said: “For a long time, the challenges and struggles facing the transgender community in Singapore have long gone unheard.”
“With this report, we want to shed some light on these issues and how even small policy actions can go a long way in enabling trans people here to live safe, fulfilling lives that will benefit not just them but the rest of Singapore,” the spokesperson stressed.