Clinicians at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) will often consult “a wide range of stakeholders” in the process of treating individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria, said the institute and the Ministry of Education (MOE) in a joint statement on Thursday (21 January).
Their statement came after MOE last week 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”.
IMH and MOE noted, however, that the final decisions on the use of HRT “rest with clinicians and their patients”.
In cases where patients are minors, such treatments will require their parents’ written consent, said MOE and IMH.
Touching on the role of schools in such situations, MOE and IMH said that schools “work closely” with the institute and parents to support these students “and to maintain a conducive learning environment”.
“In this case, the school is committed to providing the education support the student needs to graduate, including via home-based learning,” they said.
MOE and IMH also urged all parties “to respect the privacy of the family, so that the parents can have the space to decide what is in their child’s best interest”.
One commenter, however, questioned if schools found to be obstructing students from obtaining the necessary treatment for gender dysphoria will be subject to consequences.
“Will there be guidelines put in place to ensure that our schools provide safe environments for students of all backgrounds and gender identities?” They questioned.
Another commenter replied that MOE’s decision to “skip the issue” and “insisting on the IC way of identifying someone’s gender” will result in the silencing of more students affected by such issues.
“More bullying is to be expected. That’s the kind of education we’re gonna expect,” they said.
A couple of commenters said that MOE is using the family’s privacy “as a shield to protect MOE from public comments” and is a way of “hiding behind the student it is supposed to protect and help”.
One commenter sought clarification as to why MOE and IMH made a reference to home-based learning in its statement, when it is “unlikely that this treatment render students physically incapable of going to school”.
“Accounts from various young people suggest that schools have sometimes treated being visibly trans as itself somehow not “a conducive learning environment”.
“If true, this would be unfair to students undergoing transition—it would deny them access to the school environment simply based on the school’s desire to maintain a certain visual aesthetic,” they said.
The commenter urged MOE and schools “to openly commit to treating young people’s access to education as more important than their own ideas of what students should look like”.
MOE’s statement “did not address any of the issues” in Reddit post: Student
The junior college 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.