Transgender student’s experience not unique, others face difficulties in school due to gender identity issues
We are heartened to note that the Ministry of Education (MOE) has swiftly issued a public response to the student’s account of what happened to her while in junior college. Additionally, we wish to verify that the experience reported by the student, Ashlee, is not unique.
I refer to the report, "MOE denies stopping transgender student from getting hormone therapy" (Jan 16).
We are heartened to note that the Ministry of Education (MOE) has swiftly issued a public response to the student’s account of what happened to her while in junior college.
Additionally, we wish to verify that the experience reported by the student, Ashlee, is not unique. She said that she has been given a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria from a psychiatrist here, and has consent from her parents to commence hormone therapy.
Instead, her account of interactions with the school management has alleged that barriers have been put in place by MOE, preventing her from fully accessing her medical treatment.
As a non-profit, community organisation working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people in Singapore since 1999, Oogachaga has encountered numerous cases of transgender and gender-diverse youth attending mainstream schools who experience multiple difficulties as a result of their gender identity.
Even with the full support of parents and the evidence-based assessment provided by doctors, such students often report that they are not allowed by school authorities to present themselves in their gender identity. They are often pressured to delay their treatment until after they have left their respective schools.
It is also common for them to experience deadnaming and misgendering. Deadnaming refers to the practice of using a name that someone, usually a transgender person, no longer uses for themselves; misgendering refers to the wrongful use of gender pronouns on a person.
International research has shown that such discriminatory practices — deadnaming and misgendering — towards transgender youth have a negative impact on their mental health and can increase the risk of depression, self-harming and suicidal behaviours.
In Ashlee’s case, she has parental support to continue her education in a polytechnic; many other transgender youth may not, and the lack of support at home is compounded by the rejection faced in school. This can further exacerbate poor mental health outcomes.
The Government recently acknowledged that youth mental health issues are on the rise. Surely, more can be done for transgender students in this regard.
Perhaps it is timely for MOE to finally address it this year, in view of Singapore’s international obligation as a United Nations member state to appear before the Human Rights Council in a few months’ time, as part of a process known as the Universal Periodic Review.
In view of this, we urge MOE to affirm the existence of transgender students, and work closely with students and parents to ensure that their education is not disrupted while they undergo medical treatment.
Additionally, MOE can initiate discussions with LGBTQ community stakeholders to understand the issues faced by such students.
Inclusive policies can be formulated that care for, protect and support LGBTQ students, and these policies can be made known to all.
Only then can MOE be said to be closer towards moulding the future of our nation, which includes all LGBTQ students.
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