One’s True Nature Society (OTN), a socio-civic student organization based in the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Medicine, has organized a conference that aimed to identify health disparities due to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (SOGIE), and the initiatives undertaken to address these disparities.
Themed “Health for All: Bridging the Gaps in Gender and SOGIE Healthcare”, the gathering recognized that medical practitioners may be among the sources of SOGIE-related discrimination. As such, solutions may also come from medical practitioners themselves – or, at least in the case of OTN, would-be healthcare professionals.
According to Patrick C. Eustaquio, former OTN chairperson, while there are health issues specifically related to SOGIE, there are instances when healthcare professionals themselves may stigmatize and discriminate based on SOGIE. As such, there is a need to “empower the community in developing a SOGIE-friendly environment.”
And so, in organizing this gathering, “we tried to make this conference comprehensive,” said John Edward O. Tanchuco, OTN chairperson for 2015-2016. This means that not only did the gathering have multi-sectoral representatives (e.g. from the academe and civil society), but it is also “guided by the experts’” in raising SOGIE-related issues in accessing healthcare.
Among the topics discussed during the gathering were basic SOGIE concepts by National Youth Commission’s Percival Cendana; viewing health with a gender lens by Philippine Commission on Women’s May-l Fabros; challenges in addressing SOGIE-related issues in healthcare by B-Change’s Jonas Bagas; health issues of men who have sex with men by Sustained Health Initiatives of the Philippines’ Dr. Kate Leyritana; health issues of transgender women by Association of Transgender People in the Philippines’ Kate Cordova; and strategies in addressing disparities due to gender and SOGIE by Eric Manalastas of the University of the Philippines.
OTN was established in 2013 to foster a community of medical students committed to the promotion and protection of human rights, especially health for all, regardless of a person’s SOGIE. It is the first – and so far only – medical school organization in the country and in Asia that eyes to raise awareness on issues that marginalize sectors of society based on their sex and SOGIE. It has 45 active members; while OTN graduates now continue to empower the community by sharing with other healthcare providers SOGIE-related issues.