Just yesterday, there was a protest outside MOE’s building which involved 5 students who were taking a stand against transphobia in our schools. They held placards that said “#FIX SCHOOLS NOT STUDENTS”, “WHY ARE WE NOT IN YOUR SEX ED”, “HOW CAN WE GET A’s WHEN YOUR CARE FOR US IS AN F”, “trans students will NOT be erased” and “trans students deserve access to HEALTHCARE & SUPPORT”.
Out of the 5 students, 3 were arrested after they did not cease their activities when the police told them to do so. 2 of them left the scene when the police issued them with a “move on” direction.
How did it start?
Earlier this month, a JC student wrote in a Reddit post that MOE had prevented her from obtaining a doctor’s referral letter to begin hormone therapy, just as she was about to start. The student also shared that she was told to cut her hair to a boy’s style and wear the male uniform, and that failing to comply will lead to expulsion.
In response to the Reddit thread, MOE released a statement on 16 Jan which not only used the wrong pronoun when referring to her, but they also claim that they did not interfere with the student’s medical treatment.
“We invite the student to approach the school to clarify and discuss how the school can support his schooling better.” – MOE
This is the standard way the government deals with such bad press. First they deny allegations, say that it is not true. Then they ask the party involved to speak to them personally. After that, to close the case, they would hope to say that the matter has been dealt with.
Where do the protestors step in?
Pointing out the pitfalls of MOE’s statement, three of the protestors (Elijah Tay, Lune Loh, and Kokila Annamalai) sent a press release urging MOE to acknowledge and apologise for their lack of adequate care and discriminatory actions done towards LGBTQ+ students.
In normal circumstances, they would have been able to gather at Hong Lim Park to demonstrate without a permit. However, as Kirsten Han (who was there at the scene documenting the incident) pointed out, Hong Lim Park is closed because of COVID.
The government needs to stop trying to deal with mere symptoms and actually work on addressing the root cause of the problem. The students only resorted to protesting because they could not think of other ways to make themselves heard. The reason why they don’t feel heard is because tas observed, the government just silences them whenever they voice out, and then publicly gaslight them by denying everything that they say.
The fact of the matter is that while this was the experience of one student who was denied hormonal therapy, there could be many other transgender students out there who were not as brave to tell their story. The way the government chose to deal with this one student will naturally be perceived as their message to the transgender community as a whole.
Moreover, this incident also reflects on how the government treats any differing opinions in general – by denying their claims and silencing them.