MOE denies blocking transgender student from receiving hormone therapy

The Ministry of Education said it is not in a position to interfere with any medical treatment.
The Ministry of Education said it is not in a position to interfere with any medical treatment.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Education (MOE) has responded to a post on the discussion board Reddit, in which a transgender student said the ministry blocked her from receiving medical care.

"MOE is aware of the Reddit post which claimed that MOE had interfered with a student's hormonal treatment. This is not true," the ministry said in a Facebook post on Saturday (Jan 16).

In a post on the SGExams Reddit page on Thursday, the student identified herself as a "male-to-female" transgender girl and said she had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).

The student, who is in her second year of pre-university education, said she was set to undergo hormone therapy as part of her treatment, but was stopped from doing so after the MOE intervened.

Transgender individuals identify with a gender that does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Gender dysphoria refers to the psychological distress that results from this mismatch between one's sense of self and body.

Referring to the student with the male pronoun, the MOE said: "We invite the student to approach the school to clarify and discuss how the school can support his schooling better.

"MOE and schools work closely with and respect the professional advice given by MOH's healthcare professionals. We are not in a position to interfere with any medical treatment, which is a matter for the family to decide on."

The ministry added that all schools have a duty of care to students and encouraged students who experience unkind behaviour from peers to approach their teachers or school leaders.

Speaking to The Straits Times, the student said she was first diagnosed with gender dysphoria in early 2019, before she entered her current school.

In March last year, she obtained a memo from her doctor stating her diagnosis and handed it to her current school.

The student said she had parental consent to seek treatment and an agreement with her doctor that she would start hormone therapy only when she turned 18.

She also said her classmates and teachers have been supportive of her.

"In August, I went to see my doctor again, as I had just turned 18. However, he told me that the MOE had called for a meeting with him, demanding that he stop writing memos to schools or referring people to hormone therapy without informing the MOE first," said the student.

"My doctor said he couldn't refer me and that he will work with the MOE. Since August, there has been no referral for hormone therapy."

The student said she and her father also met the school management in October. She was then told she would have to cut her hair and wear the boys' uniform or she would not be allowed to return to school.

The student has not been attending lessons since school reopened earlier this month.

She said she is planning to approach her MP for help and that her priority now is to continue her education while receiving medical treatment.

If the issue cannot be resolved, she said she will consider dropping out of the school and applying to a polytechnic, where rules on attire and hair length are more relaxed.

"The dysphoria is bad enough that I cannot bear to return in boys' uniform or boys' hair," she said.