LGBT activists: ‘Recognize transgender rights in the Philippines now’

Camille Aguinaldo
LGBT activists: ‘Recognize transgender rights in the Philippines now’
Transgender people want the public and the lawmakers to know they have their own rights too

MANILA, Philippines – “While transgender people are culturally celebrated, they are not politically recognized,” model and  transgender rights activist Geena Rocero said at a forum held at the UP Center for Women’s Studies (UP CWS), moderated by Rappler’s #BalikBayan Editor Ryan Macasero, on Tuesday, May 27.

During the forum, Rocero stressed the need for countries to formulate policies regarding gender recognition – allowing transgenders to change their name and gender marker on documents without being forced to undergo surgery. 

The international fashion model and co-founder of Gender Proud visited the Philippines to launch a campaign promoting her campaign which advocates for the rights of transgender people.

Gender Proud is a global awareness movement which aims to change the global perception of transgender individuals.

Different transgender organizations who were present at the forum voiced out the issues the continue to hound the Philippine transgender community.

LGBT movement

One hot topic of the forum was whether the LGBT community should unify its position to push for political legislation to uphold LGBT rights. 

According UP sociology instructor John Andrew Evangelista, the community is so diversified on the question of what bill should be prioritized – the Marriage equality bill or the Anti-discrimination bill.

He added that the LGBT community is having difficulty fashioning its own identity as a political advocacy group to push for pro-LGBT legislation.

This, Evangelista said, fosters uncertainty in lawmakers’ minds on what LGBT issue they should champion in Congress. 

“In the context of narratives and media, we have to present diverse dignified stories. But when it comes to legislation I think we have to be unified,” Evangelista said.

For years, supporters of the LGBT community have demanded for the legalization of  LGBT rights.  Efforts paid off when House Bill 110, an anti-discrimination bill, was filed in 2013 which penalizes discrimination towards LGBTs.

On the marriage equality issue, there is less movement. President Benigno Aquino III once questioned whether same-sex marriage would be good for children. Opponents believe that same-sex marriage would destroy the country’s deep rooted Catholic values.

Cultural change

UNIFIED? Model and activist Geena Rocero talks to the participants of a transgender forum

Rocero said lawmakers need to be more aware of transgender issues.

“We live in a culture where we are easily assign gender at birth based on genitalia. How come it is difficult to reassign that especially if it is causing suffering and misunderstanding?” she asked. 

She explained that culture needs to change first then policies come after. Awareness and exposure through media and the arts is now essential according to her, because it is more powerful than presenting statistics. (READ: Is the Philippines really gay-friendly?)

“I envision a world where the media are telling dignified stories of transgender lawyers, doctors, CEO of Fortune 500 companies,” Rocero added.

Single voice?

So does this mean that all sectors in the LGBTQ movement should unite?

Not quite, says UP CWS director and Rappler columnist Sylvia Claudio. “It’s a strategpolitical strategic dead-end,” Claudio emphasized.

“You are the legislator. You are supposed to represent us. In our diversity, we are not supposed to be unified to do your job easily,” she said.

Gender recognition

In a research study conducted by Gender Proud, about 20 countries uphold gender recognition laws wherein transgender people are not forced to undergo surgery.

In Argentina and Mexico, transgender people can change their legal gender and name without surgery or even therapy – but judicial permission is needed in Mexico.

Some countries, like Hong Kong and South Africa, require sex reassignment surgery before allowing a legal gender change. In Hong Kong’s case, a transgender person is allowed to change their gender in ID cards, licenses and passports, but not in birth certificates.

Empowering

Rocero is optimistic the campaign for LGBT rights will suceed. She said the willingness of the LGBT community to work together plays a factor in this. 

“There’s nothing more powerful than the sisterhood of the transgender community,” she added.

The forum was organized by The Association of Transgender People in the Philippines (ATP), Rainbow Rights Phils., UP Center for Women’s Studies, Gender Proud Campaign with media support from Rappler.  – Rappler.com 

Camille Aguinaldo is a Rappler intern. She is also Journalism student at the University of the Philippines – Diliman. 

Tell us what you think of the LGBT rights advocacy in the comments section below. 

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