Saturday, March 12, 2011

UP Babaylan Presses for LGBT Inclusive School Policies

U.P. Babaylan, the oldest LGBT students rights and support group formed in August 1992 and the first organization of its kind to be accorded University recognition, pressed the university administration to explicitly provide for non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identities (SOGI) in the university. According to the group, the absence of non-discrimination based on SOGI in university policies result in unequal treatment and various forms of discrimination experienced by LGBT students.

This call came in the wake of the experience of Ms. Hender Gercio, a self-identifying transgender student in the university and a member of U.P. Babaylan. In one of her classes, Ms. Gercio asserted her preference to be called in the pronoun corresponding to her transgender identity which one her teachers denied. When Ms. Hercio lodged the case with the involved department, she was informed that there are no existing university rules covering transgenders.

‘We are convinced that the case of Hender brought to light the necessity to further raise awareness on the issues related to sexual orientation and gender identities. It also surfaced the fact that the University has no explicit policy on non-discrimination. The experience of Hender is not an isolated case. Other LGBT students go through the same experience but are afraid to share their stories precisely because UP has no policies on non-discrimination’ according to Michael Singson, head of UP Babaylan.

Meanwhile, Ms. Gercio said “I am just a girl who wants to study in peace. I hope that this discussion will result in non-discriminatory and gender sensitive policies in the university to protect people like me.”

To shed light on the issues related to sexual orientation and gender identities (SOGI), UP Babaylan and its alumni organization Babaylanes, Inc. initiated the “Rainbow Policies: A Discussion on Gender Sensitive Policies in U.P. Diliman” today, March 11, 2011 at the Recto Hall of the Faculty Center of the state university.

The roundtable discussion aims to raise the awareness of the UP community on issues around sexual orientations and gender identities (SOGI) specifically on transgender concepts, issues and concerns. The discussion also aims to explore the existing UP Diliman policies on non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identities.

The roundtable discussion brought together various experts on LGBT and human rights issues. Transgenderism was also discussed from the perspectives of psychology, history and culture, and human rights.

Speakers at the event were Dr. J. Neil Garcia, author of various books on LGBT including the pioneering work “Philippine Gay Culture: The Last Thirty Years”; Eric Julian Manalastas from the UP Department of Psychology; Ms. Naomi Fontanos, Chairwoman of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) and STRAP’s Vice Chairperson and former Pinoy Big Brother participant Rica Paras; UP College of Law Instructor and UP Institute of Human Rights Director Atty. Ibarra Guiterrez; Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio of the U.P. Center for Women’s Studies, and former Akbayan representative Ms. Risa Hontiveros.

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