Singapore’s ed ministry suggests trans student learn at home, not school

Parts of Reddit post against file photo of empty classroom. Photo: Coconuts
Parts of Reddit post against file photo of empty classroom. Photo: Coconuts

Days after denying it had blocked a trans student’s hormone treatment, Singapore’s education ministry today suggested that she study at home rather than attend classes.

After denying it had blocked the doctor-recommended hormone therapy of a student who said she was threatened with expulsion for not conforming to a male identity, the ministry today committed her school to “supporting” the unidentified girl in a statement stressing homeschooling.

“In this case, the school is committed to providing the education support the student needs to graduate, including via home-based learning,” read today’s joint statement issued along with the Institute of Mental Health, or IMH. “The school will continue to work with the parents and IMH medical professionals to support the student’s education journey and well-being.”

It made no mention of working with the student, emphasizing that her decisions were up to her parents.

“We urge 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,” it continued.

Neither the school nor student, who posted her complaint as Ashlee on the SGExams subreddit, have been publicly identified.

It is not entirely clear what education policy is for trans students diagnosed with gender dysphoria like Ashlee, but the ministry said that schools usually work closely with the institute and parents. Minors are required to get written consent from their guardians.

“In treating individuals who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria, IMH clinicians will typically seek inputs from a wide range of stakeholders,” today’s statement added. “The final medical treatment decisions involving the use of hormonal therapy rest with clinicians and their patients.”

Ashlee, who posted under the username AcanthisittaParty986, had published her complaints last week in a post titled Transgender Discrimination in Singapore Schools and MOE’s denial of mental health issues

She said that she had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria by an IMH doctor and informed the Education Ministry through her school. Things turned ugly when she was about to begin therapy. 

“Then, as I was about to undergo hormone therapy (a treatment explicitly stated [in the international medical code], again, and recommended by the multiple doctors attending to trans patients in Singapore) the request was suddenly blocked as the MOE had intervened, apparently for the reason ‘students in MOE schools are under our control, and we have every right and say over their treatment,” she 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,” it added. She was then told that she had to cut her hair “to fit the boys’ hairstyle in the handbook” and wear a male uniform. If she went ahead with the therapy and didn’t fit in the uniform, she “would be expelled from school, instead of being allowed to wear the female uniform.”

The school’s principal, she said, justified the demands by comparing her gender identity to a serious disability.

“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.’”

Two days after her furious post went up, the ministry denied that it had interfered with her treatment in a statement that also misgendered Ashlee, who has publicly said that she uses the pronouns she/her. She later updated her post to call its denial “an outright lie.”

“We invite the student to approach the school to clarify and discuss how the school can support his schooling better,” the ministry wrote on Jan. 16. “[The Ministry of Education] and schools work closely with and respect the professional advice given by [Ministry of Health] healthcare professionals. We are not in a position to interfere with any medical treatment, which is a matter for the family to decide on.”

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