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MOE denies stopping transgender student from getting hormone therapy, says it is ‘in no position’ to interfere with medical treatments

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Education (MOE) has come out to deny interfering with a transgender student’s decision to go on hormone replacement therapy, after allegations made by the student went viral on social media earlier this week.

MOE denies stopping transgender student from getting hormone therapy, says it is ‘in no position’ to interfere with medical treatments

Singapore

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  • The Ministry of Education's (MOE) statement comes after the student’s account went viral on social media
  • In the post, the student alleged that MOE and the student’s school stopped a doctor from referring hormone therapy
  • MOE said the student should approach the school to discuss how it can better support the student’s schooling
  • The post also alleged that the school would expel the student if physiological changes result in her not able to wear the uniform for boys

 

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Education (MOE) has come out to deny interfering with a transgender student’s decision to go on hormone replacement therapy, after allegations made by the student went viral on social media earlier this week.

In a post on Reddit on Thursday (Jan 14), the 18-year-old junior college student alleged that the ministry had prevented the student from obtaining a doctor’s referral letter to begin hormone replacement therapy.

The treatment is recommended for individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria, which refers to the psychological discomfort or distress experienced by an individual who believes there is a mismatch between his or her sex and his or her gender identity. 

The doctor the student consults is a psychiatrist from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), which is overseen by the Ministry of Health (MOH).

In a Facebook post on Saturday, MOE said that it is aware of the Reddit post and stated that the account is not true.

It said that the ministry 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 statement said. 

MOE added that it invites the student to approach the school and discuss how the school can better support the student’s schooling.

THE STUDENT’S ACCOUNT

Speaking to TODAY, the student, who wanted to be known only as Ashlee, said that she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2019. She added that the situation with MOE and the school began around February last year.

Ashlee has asked that the school not be named for fear of repercussions for speaking with the media, and also requested to be referred to by she/her pronouns. 

In response to MOE’s statement, Ashlee said that when her parents informed the school that they approved of the treatment, she was threatened with expulsion should any physiological changes take place that prevent her from wearing the uniform for boys.

Despite the school knowing about the diagnosis, it later took issue with the length of her hair and asked for it to be cut, Ashlee added. 

The student also said that the ministry’s statement did not address any of the issues laid out in the Reddit post.

Ashlee said that she notified the school’s management of her diagnosis in March last year, and was asked to produce a letter from the IMH psychiatrist to confirm this. 

The letter was given to the school and MOE that same month.

Ashlee added that MOE, through the school, told her it would work with her to understand her diagnosis and make school conducive for her.

During this time, the school’s year head and counsellor also sat in for at least one of Ashlee’s appointments with the psychiatrist.

Some school rules were relaxed during this period, Ashlee said. For example, Ashlee was allowed to use the wheelchair toilet at school.

But things took a turn in August, when Ashlee was to proceed with hormone replacement therapy with a referral letter from the psychiatrist. 

It was then that Ashlee was informed by the psychiatrist that MOE had told the doctor to consult the ministry before any decision could be made regarding treatments for transgender students.

Because of this, Ashlee said that she has yet to receive the letter to begin hormone replacement therapy.

The school also called for a meeting with Ashlee and her father in October to discuss the issue. The principal, two vice-principals, discipline master and school counsellor were present at the meeting, Ashlee said.

During the meeting, Ashlee said she was told that the school would not allow her back in should she decide not to cut her hair. 

She added that the school’s management told her she would have to continue to wear the boy’s uniform, and if hormone replacement therapy resulted in physiological changes that prevent her from doing so, she would be expelled from school.

According to Ashlee, the school’s principal also requested — should the hormone therapy proceed — to work personally with the endocrinologist to limit the dose of hormones so that expulsion was unlikely to happen.

However, Ashlee said she read reports online, which said that limiting the dose could cause additional side effects such as osteoporosis. 

Because of the ordeal, Ashlee has applied to transfer to a polytechnic. 

“At the time of making the post, I thought there was no hope in continuing (at the school) because of all the trouble,” Ashlee said.

A classmate of Ashlee’s, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that just before the Reddit post was made, she saw Ashlee getting called out by the discipline master for leaving her hair long on Jan 11.

“Everyone was surprised because they let her keep long hair last year,” the classmate said.

“I'm not sure what (the discipline master) said, but Ashlee didn't turn up for school for the rest of the week,” she added.

Related topics

LGBTQ transgender MOE hormone therapy school

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