Statement by LGBT groups and civil society organisations in Singapore
1. We, the undersigned organisations, express our solidarity with Ashlee, the transgender student at Millennia Institute whose right to privacy, health, safety and access to education were violated by her school. We are deeply concerned about the lack of institutional regulations or policies that acknowledge and protect the rights of transgender students in Singapore. The facts referred to in this statement were provided to us directly by Ashlee to the best of her recollection and knowledge. For reference, we provide a complete timeline of events from Ashlee’s perspective at the end of this statement.
2. Transgender youths often face violence and discrimination at home and in schools because of their gender identities or expressions. In a joint submission to the United Nations (UN) for Singapore’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Sayoni and TransgenderSG documented many such incidents, including where educational institutions sought to prevent transgender students from transitioning or pursuing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) while at school. TransgenderSG’s 2020 nationwide survey found that over three-quarters of students who were out as transgender in school reported negative experiences ranging from bullying to sexual assault. A third of trans students stated that they did not feel safe at school, and almost half felt they had no one at school they could turn to for help.
3. Despite having parental consent to medically transition, Ashlee was informed by her doctor in August 2020 that MOE needs him to consult and work with schools before referring any student for HRT. On 23 October 2020, Ashlee’s school leaders and administrators met with her and her father to inform them that should Ashlee choose to receive hormone replacement therapy, it would have to be at a reduced dosage. They told Ashlee that she would be expelled if physical changes from the hormones made her no longer able to fit into the boys’ uniform.
4. On 5 Nov 2020, Ashlee was pulled out of class and reprimanded for her hair length. After returning home, the school called her father to inform him that Ashlee was not to return to school until she cut her hair. The school declined her request for home-based learning. Ashlee did not return to school for the rest of the school year from 6 Nov 2020 to 27 Nov 2020. On 11 Jan 2021, the first day of Year 2, Ashlee turned up at school only to be called up by the school administration within an hour and thrown out of the school compound because her hair length did not comply with the boy’s dress code.
5. On 15 January 2021, Ashlee posted on Reddit about her experiences. MOE responded by issuing a statement denying their alleged interference in her hormone replacement therapy or that of any student. On 18 January 2021, the school met with Ashlee and informed her that they would not allow her to attend classroom lessons unless she complies with the hair and uniform requirements for male students, once again denying her right to education on the basis of her gender expression. An allowance was made for her to wear track pants and a polo shirt instead of the boy’s uniform, on the condition she agreed to cut her hair.
6. We affirm that medical advice, in particular medical advice on hormone dosage levels, should be left to healthcare professionals. Schools should not interfere with a student’s healthcare decisions and necessary medical treatments. In addition, schools should not punish – let alone threaten to expel – students for failing to adhere to gender stereotypes and binary gender roles, or invade their privacy by sharing their transgender identity without their consent.
7. Existing research extensively documents a higher prevalence of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation among transgender individuals. HRT is a life-saving treatment that has been proven to significantly reduce this prevalence and improve the mental health and quality of life of many transgender persons with gender dysphoria. In Singapore, a 2016 study found that nearly half of transgender women have had suicidal thoughts. Millennia Institute’s ultimatum for Ashlee to choose between receiving an education or receiving medically necessary treatment violates her basic human rights to self-determination, privacy, personal autonomy and bodily integrity, as well as her right to education and the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.
8. In 2019, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which Singapore has ratified since 1995, expressed concerns over the persisting discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) children in Singapore and recommended the State to adopt comprehensive strategies, including providing sensitivity training for teachers. The Ministry of Education (MOE) has since expressed their commitment to meeting the mental health needs of students, and implementing measures to combat bullying based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression at educational institutions.7 It is thus profoundly troubling and disappointing that MOE’s official statement on Ashlee’s allegations refused to acknowledge her gender identity and chose to misgender her by using male pronouns.
9. In response to the Ministry Of Education’s denial of any involvement in withholding Ashlee’s hormone replacement therapy, and their stated commitment to keeping students safe, we call upon the Ministry of Education and Institute of Mental Health to act on this commitment by working with LGBTIQ organisations to clarify and implement a uniform standard of care for transgender students and other LGBTIQ youths across all schools, in order to ensure safe and nurturing environments for all students regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or sex characteristics.
10. We invite all transgender and other LGBTIQ students who have faced violence or discrimination in schools to share your stories with us by emailing [email protected]
- Aces Going Places
- Dear Straight People
- Embrace Singapore
- Equality in Education
- Free Community Church
- Gender Collective
- GLBT Voices Singapore
- Heckin’ Unicorn
- Inter-Uni LGBT Network
- Mates Gone Running
- Minority Voices
- My Queer Story SG
- Nonbinary Singapore
- Out in SG
- Pink Dot SG
- Q Space
- QUASA SG
- Queer Friendly Chers
- Queer Singapore
- Rainbow Parents SG
- Singapore LGBT Law
- SKRRT CENTRAL
- The Bear Project
- The Healing Circle SG
- The Purple Alliance
- True Singapore Love
- Young Out Here
- ASEAN SOGIE Caucus (non-Singapore based)
- Asia Pacific Transgender Network (non-Singapore based)
- Xpointo Media
- Replica SoftwareYou can also download the statement at https://bit.ly/3qycAqP