Singapore—Education Minister Lawrence Wong addressed gender identity issues in Parliament on Monday (Feb 1).
The topic has been in the news of late, with the Ministry of Education (MOE) coming under criticism after a transgender student named Ashlee claimed that the ministry blocked her from receiving hormone therapy.
The MOE denied Ashlee’s claims.
Last Tuesday (Jan 26), three people protesting in support of LGBTQ+ students were arrested outside the Ministry of Education (MOE) building in Buona Vista.
The Workers’ Party’s He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC) asked Mr Wong what MOE’s policies and guidelines are on students with gender dysphoria, such as Ashlee. She also asked questions concerning the support transgender teens receive at school, and what kind of training school staff receive with such cases.
Mr Wong acknowledged “how strongly some people feel about this issue,” and said that the MOE encourages dialogue and feedback and would “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 countries and societies. We should not import these culture wars into Singapore, or allow issues of gender identity to divide our society.”
He repeated the Ministry’s assertion that the decision to receive hormone therapy is not within its purview, and that the choice ultimately lies with the individual, their family, and healthcare professionals.
For people below 21, parental consent is also needed, said Mr Wong.
In this matter, the MOE’s concern is to provide students who have gender dysphoria, with a “conducive learning environment” as well as overall support, and said the ministry strives “to deal with these situations sensitively and with compassion.”
Importantly, he added that schools have the flexibility to “work out practical arrangements” for students with gender dysphoria given the possible difficulties these students may face when it comes to certain school rules.
“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,” he said.
When Ms He suggested that the MOE consider publishing a report on the issue regularly, the Minister said this might cause some discomfort to the families of students with gender dysphoria, who may wish to keep matters private.
“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.”
On his Facebook page on Monday night, Mr Wong wrote, “While there have been many different views, I know they are all bound by the same concern for the wellbeing of our students and the need to ensure our schools remain a safe space for learning for all. This is and will continue to be MOE’s focus. Our guiding principles are to treat every student with dignity and respect, and to extend our full support to them.”
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