Various LGBTQIA organizations in the Philippines called for Vice President Sara Z. Duterte, who is also the head of the Department of Education, and J. Prospero E. De Vera III, who heads the Commission on Higher Education, to take steps to make sure that school become more “SOGIESC-responsive in their policies and practices.”
In an open letter posted on Facebook, the organizations noted that the resumption of face-to-face classes resurfaced the implementation of discriminatory practices, including deadnaming (or the non-recognition of the names chosen by trans and gender-nonconforming students to identify themselves), and the enforcing of “binary gendered expression on haircuts and uniforms”.
These “impinge on the right of transgender girls/women, transgender boys/men and gender-diverse learners to safe, gender-inclusive basic education, free from gender-based violence and harmful stereotypes. Gender-based discriminatory policies and practices that target one’s appearance, lived name, and other expressions of gender negatively impact the basic freedoms of learners to gender expression and diverse identities,” stated in the letter.
For the LGBTQIA organizations, this is also contradicting DepEd policies that supposedly promote non-discrimination and inclusivity.
DepEd Gender-Responsive Basic Education Policy (DepEd Order No. 32, s. 2017), for one, seeks to eliminate all forms of discrimination and abuse and promote basic respect for gender identity and expression. Meanwhile, DepEd Regional Memorandum NCR No. 358, s. 2022, DepEd NCR reiterated that “this Office reminds the field to respect the gender expression of students. Gender Expression refers to the way in which a person acts to communicate gender within a given culture, for example, in terms of clothing, communication patterns and interests. X x x School heads/School Administrators and all school personnel are hereby advised to allow students to attend school-initiated activities such as End-of-School Year (EOSY) rites wearing clothes which are aligned with their gender identity, without restricting students’ gender expression x x x.”
But with “reports of threats and denial of education purely because of hair length (existing) for decades”, then “DepEd must take action such as allowing hair styles, clothes, and other forms of gender expression that are aligned with the learners’ diverse gender identity and expression.”
Gender policing, stressed the organizations, “is a form of gender-based violence, invoking certain differential characterizations that lead to social harm, bullying, or exclusion, where their rational endpoint highlights no significant benefit especially in the face of diversity. Controlling people’s freedoms to look their authentic selves is also a form of gender-based violence against bodily autonomy, especially when their identities are displaced onto who they are not, by characterization or categorization, enabling the foundations for indirect discrimination by enforced differentiation. We live our gender and expressions daily–our actions have provenance–whether our language speaks of mere expressions or of anything deeper.”
In the end, “education is for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics.”
The signatories of the open letter included:
Society of Trans Women of the Philippines (STRAP)
ASEAN SOGIE Caucus
House of Iris Vito Cruz
Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc.
Ateneo de Manila University Gender Hub
LakanBini Advocates Pilipinas Inc.
Pioneer Filipino Transgender Men Movement
UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies – Program on Alternative Development
Psychological Association of the Philippines LGBT Special Interest Group
Cebu United Rainbow LGBT Sector Inc. (CURLS)
TUP Dugong Bughaw
Mindanao Pride Inc.
Side B Philippines
Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY)
Mujer-LGBT Organization Inc – Zamboanga City
LGBTS CHRISTIAN CHURCH
Side B Philippines
Southern Tagalog Pride
Initiatives and Movement for Gender Liberation Against Discrimination (IMGLAD)
OutRight Action International
Gayon Albay LGBT Org., Inc.
Pinay Sa Holland – Gabriela NL
Filipino LGBT Europe
Miriam College Women and Gender Institute (MC – WAGI)