MOE, IMH clarify on transgender student's case

The Ministry of Education (MOE) and Institute of Mental Health (IMH) yesterday issued a joint statement on the case of an 18-year-old transgender student who claimed the ministry had intervened in her hormonal treatment.

Decisions about final medical treatment involving the use of hormonal therapy rest with clinicians and their patients, the ministry and institute said.

"Such treatments also require the written consent from parents, where minors are concerned," they added. IMH also clarified that minors in this instance refers to those under the age of 21.

The student, who is in the second year of pre-university education, said in a widely shared Reddit post last week that the ministry had blocked her from receiving medical care. The student identifies as a "male-to-female" transgender girl and had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The condition refers to the psychological distress that results from this mismatch between one's sense of self and body.

The MOE addressed the matter in a Facebook post last Saturday, saying it was not true it had interfered with the student's hormonal treatment, and that MOE and schools work closely with and respect the advice given by healthcare professionals.

"We are not in a position to interfere with any medical treatment, which is a matter for the family to decide on," it said then, adding that all schools have a duty of care to students.

In a statement on its Facebook page on Tuesday, Sayoni, a volunteer-run organisation that advocates for queer women - and several groups that support LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) persons - expressed solidarity with the student and said transgender youth often face violence and discrimination at home and in school. Their statement, which cited a name she uses and identified her school, said medical advice should be left to healthcare professionals, and schools should not interfere with students' healthcare decisions and medical treatment.

Yesterday, MOE and IMH said the institute's clinicians will typically seek inputs from a wide range of stakeholders in treating individuals who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria. "Within the school setting, the schools work closely with IMH and the parents to support these students, and to maintain a conducive learning environment," they said.

The agencies said the school is committed to providing support the student needs to graduate, including via home-based learning, and would continue to work with the parents and IMH professionals to support the student's education journey and well-being.

They added: "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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2021, with the headline 'MOE, IMH clarify on transgender student's case'. Subscribe