The Ministry of Education (MOE) has found itself in the middle of a firestorm of criticism amid claims from a transgender student that it blocked her hormone therapy on the basis that “students in MOE schools are under our control, and we have every right and say over their treatment“.
While the MOE has seemingly categorically denied this on its Facebook page saying: “MOE is aware of the Reddit post which claimed that MOE had interfered with a student’s hormonal treatment. This is not true…We are not in a position to interfere with any medical treatment, which is a matter for the family to decide on.”
Given that both statements seem diametrically opposed, let’s examine the issues logically to see if we can gain further clarity.
- Cohesive Summary of Events:
The student in question has provided an organised chronology of events. She has set out her account in a systematic fashion.
The MOE has on the other end simply issued a sweeping statement that provides no details apart from the generic policy.
What is glaringly absent is that MOE has not categorically denied that it blocked the student’s treatment.
What it simply said is that it was “not in the position”. However, you could do something even if you were not technically “in the position” to do it. The choice of language is curious.
Looking at the statement more closely, it becomes clear that MOE has not specifically denied that it had blocked this particular student’s treatment. It merely said that it was “not in a position to interfere in any medical treatment“.
So, while the student has provided an account with details, the MOE has issued a statement with its general policy.
On the authenticity smell test, the student’s account seems more believable.
2. No follow up action
The student also gave praise where it fell due, crediting her friends and teachers for their support:
“My classmates and subject tutors are highly supportive.”
The MOE statement, on the other hand, was dismissive and cold with no follow-up actions on its part. It did not say that it would investigate further. It merely stated that the student in question should step forward.
“We invite the student to approach the school to clarify and discuss how the school can support his schooling better.”
The student has just highlighted her trauma. If the MOE was truly concerned and had the welfare of the student at heart, wouldn’t it want to actively do its part to find out more?
The student voiced a failing on the part of the MOE. Shouldn’t it be the role of MOE to actively investigate its own failings? Instead, it has defensively put the onus on the student to step forward.
Please bear in mind that the student has already done her part in speaking out in what must have been difficult to talk about. It is now for the MOE to investigate as opposed to just merely inviting her to step forward.
So, is the MOE really trying to uncover the truth to help? Or is it just a PR exercise to damage control?
2. Telltale signs of ignorance on the MOE statement
MOE’s statement refuses to refer to the student as “her” — consistently referring to her as “the student” even when it seems much smoother to use to a gender prefix. It has been clearly stated that the student is a “her” or “she”.
Why not just use the correct gender prefix? This clearly displays a poor understanding of what “transgender” means. As one commentator, Tiffany Gwee points out:
“The irony is that you say “duty of care” and then go on to commit an act of violence by misgendering the student in the same post. How disgusting! I am truly appalled and feel so bad for her!!!!! Breaks my heart once again, it’s HER schooling”
MOE’s refusal to acknowledge the student’s gender in its statement promising assistance displays its callousness to her needs.
With this in mind, it is completely believable that MOE might have blocked a treatment (even if it might have been indirectly through pressure rather than direct instruction.)
3. Why would the student in question make something like this up?
In cookie cutter Singapore, it is hard to be different. With this in mind, why would the student in question make something like this up?
It is hard enough being transgender in conservative and sometimes, narrow-minded Singapore, why add to this by taking on MOE if this was not true?
As commentator Nabanita Bose points out:
“HER* it’s not that difficult to use HER pronouns!!! No student in sg have the time to come up with bs if it didn’t happen to them!! Clearly it happened that’s why she voiced it out! She didn’t point out issues about her school peers. In fact, they were supporting her!! Please read the post as many times as you need! She pointed out the issue about MOE. Please do better!!!”
Why would someone lie about something like this? Why is the MOE so passive? Why is the MOE’s statement so specifically worded? While we cannot conclusively be sure at this stage, it is clear that MOE needs to do more to address the situation.
That much is clear.