We should not import the “culture wars” of countries in the West into Singapore or allow gender identity to divide the city-state’s society, said Education Minister Lawrence Wong in Parliament on Monday (1 February).
Responding to a Parliamentary question from Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament for Sengkang GRC He Ting Ru, who asked about the Ministry of Education’s policies and guidelines on students with gender dysphoria, Mr Wong said that the MOE strives to provide a supportive school environment to support students holistically.
The Minister said that as gender dysphoria is a medical condition that varies from person to person. Treatments for gender dysphoria, thus, are also tailored to the individual.
He asserted, “All medical treatment decisions, including the use of hormone replacement therapy, ultimately rest with medical professionals, [as well as] the person with gender dysphoria and their family.”
“Where minors are concerned, meaning anyone below the age of 21, parental consent is required before any hormonal treatment can commence,” he added.
He then stated that such decisions are “beyond the purview of MOE or any education institution,” adding that the Ministry’s focus lies in the school environment and the students themselves.
“We have a duty of care of every student,” said Mr Wong.
For students with gender dysphoria, the Minister said that the main focus of the MOE is in “continuing to provide them with a conducive learning environment” and to “support their overall wellbeing.”
“Recognising that the issues are complex and that there are diverse opinions among students and their parents, we strive to deal with these situations sensitively and with compassion,” he continued.
On Ms He’s question on the level of autonomy schools have in setting policies in this issue, Mr Wong explained that rules are in place to help students cultivate self-discipline.
However, he added later, “Where there are valid medical grounds, schools can exercise flexibility and work out practical arrangements for these students.”
“The schools will consult and work closely with different stakeholders including the relevant medical professionals, the students concerned and their parents, in putting in place these arrangements,” he said.
Adding that each matter is dealt with individually as each student’s situation is unique, the MOE’s guiding principle is to treat students with dignity and respect and to provide students with as much support as possible.
“Issues of gender identity have become bitterly contested sources of division in the culture wars in some Western countries and societies. We should not import these culture wars into Singapore or allow gender identity to divide our society,” he said.