Gender dysphoria

One-sided positions may contribute to bullying of the young

Speaking on behalf of a group of parents, I wish to share the experience the daughter of our friend went through in school.

Our friend's daughter, with gender dysphoria, was bullied in primary school. The bullying got worse in secondary school, and fellow students thought it was cool to pick on the kid who was different.

Our friend's daughter's mental health improved only in adulthood, after learning more about gender dysphoria outside the confines of school walls.

There is still widespread misunderstanding about gender dysphoria and many questions remain. Parents and the young themselves, predictably, have many questions and concerns as this is not an issue that has been discussed much in Singapore.

Gender dysphoria is a complex issue and it is definitely not in anybody's interests, least of all, children and the young, to portray it in a simplistic black-and-white manner.

We have received text messages from acquaintances quoting from websites that present one-sided views. These have to be read in conjunction with those that present the views of more diverse groups, especially persons with the exact opposite experiences, to get a more complete picture.

Ultimately, it is often organisations that take a broad approach, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), which present a more balanced view after decades of evidence and research.

Experts at WHO have agreed that "gender incongruence" is not a mental and behavioural disorder, and stated that "this reflects evidence that trans-related and gender diverse identities are not conditions of mental ill health, and classifying them as such can cause enormous stigma".

We believe it is the one-sided positions that contribute to the bullying of children and the young with gender dysphoria in school.

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or who are on the autism spectrum were once seen as problem children and less deserving of understanding and protection.

There is more recognition now of neuro-atypical children.

Parents and educators would be horrified if it were suggested that these children should be ostracised and banned from attending schools to protect neurotypical children.

We hope that children and the young with gender dysphoria will be treated with the same understanding and love sooner rather than later.

We fervently hope that another generation of children does not have to suffer due to adults' ignorance and fear.

We further urge the Ministry of Education to follow the guidelines issued by WHO and to ensure that students with gender dysphoria have the same learning opportunities as their peers in an environment that is safe and supporting.

Leong Soo Yee

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2021, with the headline One-sided positions may contribute to bullying of the young. Subscribe