Ministry of Education denies interfering with transgender student’s HRT treatment; Netizens criticise Ministry for misgendering her in its clarification

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has denied the allegations of an 18-year-old junior college student who claimed that the Ministry had interfered with her hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

In a Facebook post on Saturday (16 January), MOE said it is “not in a position to interfere with any medical treatment, which is a matter for the family to decide on”.

MOE also urged the student to approach the school to clarify and improve the school’s means of support.

“All schools have a duty of care to students and will work closely with parents and medical professionals.

“We encourage students who experience unkind behaviour from peers to approach the teachers or school leaders as they are committed to keep students safe,” said the Ministry.

MOE’s statement “did not address any of the issues” in Reddit post: Student

The student, who wanted to be known only as Ashlee, told TODAY that the ministry’s statement did not address any of the issues laid out in her Reddit post.

Among the issues she laid out in her post was that her request for a referral letter to commence HRT was “suddenly blocked as the MOE had intervened”.

The reason given by MOE was that — quoting the reply from MOE — ‘students in MOE schools are under our control, and we have every right and say over their treatment’, Ms Ashlee wrote.

“This meant that my doctor had to call off the referral, causing me further mental trauma as this affected my ability to pass and present as a female,” she lamented.

Ms Ashlee noted that her classmates and subject tutors are highly supportive of her decision to seek HRT.

She highlighted that prior to that, things were well “for several months” at first, given that she “had a proper diagnosis from a qualified doctor”.

“Alongside this, I was informed that I had to cut my hair to fit the boys’ hairstyle in the handbook, and that I was specifically to wear the male uniform; that could probably have slipped under the radar but it seems unlikely as all these troubles started in the same month,” Ms Ashlee wrote.

She said that if she “became unable to fit in the boys’ uniform” as a result of undergoing HRT, she “would be expelled from school, instead of being allowed to wear the female uniform”.

“The principal’s explanation for this was that ‘due to your presentation, you would be as disruptive to the school environment as a student with severe autism’,” said Ms Ashlee.

“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,” she said.

In an update of her Reddit post, Ms Ashlee said that MOE’s statement “is an outright lie, contradicts what I was told by my doctor, and I am sure my classmates can vouch for me”.

“In addition, they do not respect my pronouns and instead intentionally misgendered me (against the advice and recommendations),” she added.

MOE’s statement on the matter was met with a wave of backlash, with many criticising the Ministry for misgendering the student and its overall insensitivity in handling the matter.

A couple of netizens questioned how it would be possible for the MOE to “commit to keeping the student safe” and fulfilling a “duty of care” owed to the student when the Ministry was unable to even “find a gender-neutral way of crafting” its clarification.

One netizen said that the MOE is “completely gaslighting the student’s experience and trauma” on top of misgendering her in its statement.

“don’t apologise if it is insincere,” said the user.

A couple of netizens pointed out how MOE’s move to ask the student to come forward “risks outing her beyond her own situation”, which could worsen her well-being by exposing her to the risks of further bullying if her identity is exposed.

Several netizens questioned why the MOE had suggested the student to approach her school leader about the matter when the principal “was part of the problem”.

One netizen called on the MOE to investigate the allegations against the school principal “who used appalling ableist language while supporting transphobic actions on the student”.

A couple of netizens highlighted that the student had pointed out in her Reddit post that the issue stemmed from MOE’s actions, and suggested that the Ministry should not shift the blame on peers when the student’s peers “were supporting her”.

LGBT community “live in Singapore peacefully”, face “no discrimination at work, housing (and) education”: Then-Education Minister Ong Ye Kung

The recent MOE incident at hand appears to be at odds with what then-Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said in 2018 at the annual Singapore Summit, where he was asked how Singapore could become more inclusive, including towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Mr Ong replied that inclusiveness is embedded within Singapore’s DNA, and that the LGBT community “live in Singapore peacefully” and face “no discrimination at work, housing (and) education”.

“They go about their lives,” he said.

However, Mr Ong also said that LGBT is “an issue of social mores and societal values”.

TOC has written to MOE regarding Ms Ashlee’s case. We have received no response so far.

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