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Teachers, social workers urge MOE to implement clear policy supporting transgender students

SINGAPORE — More than 300 teachers, counsellors and social workers have signed a petition calling on the Ministry of Education (MOE) to implement a clear policy to support transgender students.

Three people aged 19 to 32 were arrested after they staged a protest outside the headquarters of the Ministry of Education on Jan 26, 2021.

Three people aged 19 to 32 were arrested after they staged a protest outside the headquarters of the Ministry of Education on Jan 26, 2021.

  • A group has urged MOE to implement a clear policy supporting transgender students through their gender transitioning
  • The petition was signed by teachers, psychologists, nurses and counsellors
  • They want teachers and school counsellors to be trained on gender dysphoria and LGBTQ+ issues

 

SINGAPORE — More than 300 teachers, counsellors and social workers have signed a petition calling on the Ministry of Education (MOE) to implement a clear policy to support transgender students.

They urged the ministry to prohibit schools from condemning the expressed gender of students and obstructing them from taking steps towards transitioning their gender, among others.

The petition comes on the back of a transgender student’s claim that the ministry had interfered with her getting hormonal therapy, which has sparked a spirited debate on the discrimination that students who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) are facing in schools.

“As education and social service professionals, we have witnessed and heard about similar situations faced by transgender students in Singapore schools,” the signatories wrote in the petition.

Friendly People SG, an “informal group” of teachers and social workers who got together to organise the petition, told TODAY that they sent copies of it to MOE officials, including Education Minister Lawrence Wong, on Friday (Jan 29) evening.

TODAY has approached MOE for comment.

Pointing to evidence that transgender youths face higher risk of depression and suicide when they are prevented from transitioning their gender, the signatories said that they had a duty to help them manage their transitioning process and not to add to the challenges they face.

Those who signed the online petition included teachers, psychologists, nurses, counsellors and former educators who signed off with either their full name, initials or a pseudonym.

Eight organisations also put their name to the statement, including LGBTQ+ groups Oogachaga and The T Project.

The signatories called on MOE to commit to creating a safe school environment for all students, including transgender students, by providing inclusive sexuality education in schools and having teachers and school counsellors be trained on gender dysphoria and LGBTQ+ issues.

Earlier this month, an 18-year-old junior college student alleged in a post on online forum Reddit that MOE had prevented her from getting a doctor’s referral letter to begin hormone replacement therapy.

The student, who wanted to be known only as Ashlee, previously told TODAY that she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 2019.

The condition refers to the psychological discomfort or distress experienced by an individual who believes that there is a mismatch between his or her sex and gender identity.

Ashlee, who chose to undergo therapy because she identifies as female, also alleged that her school threatened to expel her if physiological changes from the hormone replacement therapy meant that she would not be able to fit into a boy's uniform.

MOE has refuted the claims and denied interfering with the student’s decision to go on therapy.

The final medical treatment decisions involving the use of hormonal therapy rest with clinicians and their patients, the ministry added.

The signatories urged MOE to commit to deferring all decisions pertaining to a student’s physical and mental health to healthcare professionals, without any interference from the school.

“Many of us were afraid to write this statement or put our names to it because we recognise that it is still not safe for us as individuals and professionals to publicly express these views,” they said.

“Nevertheless, we are making this statement because we believe that it is the right thing to do, and because it is our professional duty to protect and care for all the young people we teach, counsel and guide.”

A teacher who signed the petition told TODAY that she did so to support her students, although she chose not to use her real name for fear of losing her job.

“My role is to support my students’ education journeys and care for their physical, mental and emotional health, too,” Ms L Lee said. “This case involving Ashlee, the transgender student, seemed to go against all of these aspects.”

Last week, about 60 groups comprising mainly LGBTQ+ organisations published a joint statement calling on MOE and the Institute of Mental Health to work with queer groups to implement a uniform standard of care for LGBTQ+ students in schools.

A protest outside the MOE’s headquarters in Buona Vista was staged on Tuesday, without permit, by a group of five demonstrators. Three were arrested within half an hour and have been released on bail.

Related topics

transgender student MOE hormonal therapy LGBTQ

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