Students with gender dysphoria

Published Date: 01 February 2021 09:00 PM

News Parliamentary Replies

NAME AND CONSTITUENCY OF MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

Ms He Ting Ru, Sengkang GRC

QUESTION

To ask the Minister for Education (a) what are the Ministry’s policies and guidelines on students with gender dysphoria; (b) how often are such policies and approaches reviewed at the school and Ministry levels; (c) what level of autonomy do schools have over the setting of such policies and approaches; and (d) whether the Ministry will consider presenting a public report on these matters to Parliament on a regular basis.

RESPONSE

1. Gender dysphoria is a clinically diagnosed condition. Medical professionals recognise that each person with gender dysphoria is different. Thus, the treatments too are individualised.

2. All medical treatment decisions, including the use of hormone replacement therapy, ultimately rest with medical professionals, the persons with gender dysphoria and their family. Where minors are concerned (meaning anyone below the age of 21), parental consent is required before any hormonal treatment can commence. Such medical decisions are beyond the purview of MOE or any educational institution.

3. MOE’s focus is on the school environment and the students involved. Schools are a common space for all students regardless of their backgrounds and circumstances. We have a duty of care to every student. For students with gender dysphoria, our main focus is continuing to provide them with a conducive learning environment and to support their overall well-being. Recognising that the issues are complex, and that there are diverse opinions amongst students and their parents, we strive to deal with these situations sensitively and with compassion.

4. One particularly difficult issue is with school rules. They are in place to help students cultivate self-discipline and a sense of responsibility. But we recognise that students diagnosed with gender dysphoria and undergoing hormone therapy could face difficulties with certain school rules. Where there are valid medical grounds, schools can exercise flexibility and work out practical arrangements for these students.

5. The schools will consult and work closely with different stakeholders, including the relevant medical professionals, the students concerned and their parents, in putting in place these arrangements. As each student’s situation is unique, the matter must be dealt with individually. Our guiding principles are to treat these students with dignity and respect, and to provide as much support as we can to help them.

6. I recognise how strongly some people feel about this issue. We welcome continued dialogue and feedback, and will strive to provide a supportive environment in schools to support our students holistically. Issues of gender identity have become bitterly contested sources of division in the culture wars in some Western societies. We should not import these culture wars into Singapore, or allow issues of gender identity to divide our society.

7. Ms He suggested a report to Parliament on a regular basis. Our experience dealing with such cases is that the family members themselves, especially the parents, are very uncomfortable with a public airing of their situation. We ought to respect their requests for privacy, and avoid putting out information that will compromise any student or family confidentiality. Let us give the students and their families time and space to resolve matters among themselves, in consultation with their doctors and counsellors.

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