MOE, IMH say decisions on hormonal therapy for transgender people lie with clinicians and patients

The Ministry of Education had said it was not true that it had interfered with the student's hormonal treatment.
The Ministry of Education had said it was not true that it had interfered with the student's hormonal treatment.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Education (MOE) and Institute of Mental Health (IMH) have 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 the institute said on Thursday (Jan 21).

"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 agencies' response comes after the student, who is in the second year of pre-university education, said in a widely shared Reddit post last week that MOE had blocked her from receiving medical care.

The student identified as a "male-to-female" transgender girl and had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

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.

MOE had addressed the post in a Facebook post last Saturday (Jan 16), saying it was not true that it had interfered with the student's hormonal treatment.

"MOE and schools work closely with and respect the professional advice given by MOH's (Ministry of Health'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," it said then.

It 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.

The issue also drew a response from a number of organisations that support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

In a statement shared on its Facebook page on Jan 19, Sayoni, a volunteer-run LGBT research and advocacy group, as well as other organisations, expressed solidarity with the student and said that transgender youth often face violence and discrimination at home and in schools.

The statement also cited a name the student uses and identified her school.

The group said that medical advice should be left to healthcare professionals, and schools should not interfere with students' healthcare decisions and medical treatment.

In the statement on Thursday, MOE and IMH said that 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," the agencies said.

"In this case, the school is committed to providing the education support the student needs to graduate, including via home-based learning. The school will continue to work with the parents and IMH medical professionals to support the student's education journey and well-being."

The agencies 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."