The University of the Philippines Babaylan, the first and largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) student organization in the country, commemorates the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) with the rest of the LGBT community and its allies. We remain steadfast in our commitment to eradicating homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in Philippine society, with a particular emphasis on the educational setting.
Our organization was founded twenty years ago precisely because of a homophobic incident: a group of students verbally and physically assaulted a gay student in an all-male dormitory, accusing him of "peeping" on one of the residents. This stereotyping of gay people as sexual predators, the unjust hatred and the ensuing helplessness fueled the desire of the founding members for an LGBT support and activist group within the campus.
Today, we reap the rewards of twenty years of educational discussions and campaigns. As a testament to how much the perception and treatment of LGBT people has changed in the State University, this year's University Student Council will be headed by Heart Diño, a transgender student. However, enormous challenges remain in the campaign for equal rights and opportunities of LGBT students, faculty and staff across schools in the Philippines
Some schools routinely refuse admission to students for not being "masculine" or "feminine" enough. LGBT students are continually punished for "violating" school dress codes and for "inappropriate" behavior, are perceived as sick, abnormal or immoral by teachers and fellow classmates, and suffer abuse from their own families for being who they are.
We, in U.P. Babaylan, remain resolute in our campaign for school officials to incorporate an anti-discrimination policy in their administrative guidelines, making explicit mention of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression as protected characteristics, and outlawing any form of bullying or harassment.
Furthermore, we demand from the government the passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill and the Reproductive Health Bill, which will help to ensure equal access to education, employment, housing, and sexual and reproductive health for all.
Lastly, we call out to our fellow Filipino LGBT students and youth: be strong. Let us continue to support each other and educate larger society on the issues that confront our community. Together, we can forge bonds and change lives.
For the past twenty years, U.P. Babaylan has been active in the promotion of equal rights, irrespective of one's sexual orientation and gender identity. For the next twenty years, we will continue to advocate for the creation of safe spaces where everyone can live, learn and love in peace