education in the Philippines

Haircut video of transgender student of EARIST Manila triggers LGBTQ community

Russell Ku

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Haircut video of transgender student of EARIST Manila triggers LGBTQ community

HAIRCUT. A transgender second year student in Eulogio "Amang" Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology Manila cuts her hair to get enrolled for the second semester of school year 2023-2024.

Bahaghari's X video screenshot

(2nd UPDATE) The controversial video comes as enrollment for the second semester of school year 2023-2024 ends on March 15

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino LGBTQs online are bristling over a video on social media which showed a transgender woman getting a haircut inside a classroom to be able to enroll at the Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST) in Manila.

The viral video posted on Wednesday, March 13, by LGBTQ+ rights group Bahaghari showed second year entrepreneurship student Gen (not her real name) getting her hair cut to shoulder length from a fellow student inside the campus.

Gen told Rappler that EARIST enrollment personnel informed her she needed to have her hair cut to be able to enroll for the second semester. The enrollment period ends Friday, March 15. 

The video riled drag artists such as Eva Le Queen, Pura Luka Vega, and Drag Race Philippines season 2 winner Captivating Katkat; along with LGBTQ+ groups UP Babaylan and Lakapati Laguna. They joined social media users in condemning the circumstances endured by the student, saying that it was “blatant discrimination and oppression.” 

EARIST president Rogelio Marmadlo addressed the controversy in a statement on Friday, saying “all students…are allowed to enroll for the second semester of school year 2023-2024…provided that those with long hair have them properly tied or fixed.”

Gen said it was EARIST entrepreneurship program head Jhon Saint Pasahol who told her that she would not be allowed to enroll unless she cut her hair.

Hindi po kami natanggap kahit naka-bun po…. Inisip ko na at that time na makapagenroll talaga ako kasi ang alam ng parents ko…nag-aaral ako na walang gupit ng buhok,” Gen told Rappler.

(We weren’t allowed [to enroll] even if we wore a bun…. I thought at that time, I wanted to finally enroll because my parents know that I can study without having my hair cut.)

She added that she cut her hair as a “sacrifice” for her fellow trans students as she felt that they lost their voice in EARIST.

Why did this happen?

According to the 2021 EARIST student handbook’s code of conduct and discipline, male students should observe a barber’s haircut. Meanwhile, the only restriction for female students, was not being allowed to sport colorful highlights.

The handbook also states that students have the right to “freely express one’s gender preference to follow the norms of the Institution without due prejudice to any provisions.” 

Bahaghari-EARIST president Red Riotoc and women’s representative JP Brillantes told Rappler that the issue on the need for trans women to cut their hair for enrollment has been constantly raised with the school administration.

Paulit-ulit na kami nagpabalik-balik sa different offices, paulit-ulit kami nagpapasa ng different papers. Pero parang pinaglalaruan… [at] pinagpapasahan kami. (We have been going back and forth with different offices and submitted different papers. We feel like we are being fooled and passed around),” Brillantes added. 

Representatives from the LGBTQ+ community, including Bahaghari-EARIST, also had a dialogue with EARIST president Rogelio Mamaradlo on October 9, 2023 with a demand letter drafted by the organization, with the help of Rainbow Rights Philippines.

The meeting led to a “verbal agreement” allowing transgender women to enroll for the first semester of school year 2023-2024 without any conditions. 

For the second semester though the issue once again erupted this month after Bahaghari-EARIST received over 40 complaints from transgender students in the college of business and public administration, claiming that they were not allowed to enroll on March 11.

This led the organization to draft a resolution urging the school administration to allow students to wear school uniform and grow their hair according to their gender identity and expression.

Following the submission of the resolution to school administration officials, a meeting was held with LGBTQ+ representatives, EARIST’s student affairs and services office, and college deans on Tuesday, March 12.

‘Yung iba’t ibang department, may iba’t ibang rules po sa LGBTQ+ [students]. Sa college po namin, college of business and public administration, ang required po is shoulder length and nakatali [ang buhok],” Riotoc said. 

(Different departments had different rules for the LGBTQ+ students. In our college, the college of business and public administration, the requirement is that the hair should be shoulder length and tied.)

Following the meeting, the college of business and public administration agreed to allow third and fourth year transgender students to keep their long hair. However, first and second year students had to cut their hair to shoulder length.

Students in the colleges of education, criminology, tourism, have to adhere to the male haircut policies. Other students could keep their long hair, but have to adhere to other rules of their college such as tying it into a bun.

On Friday, Marmadlo said Tuesday’s meeting ended “with the agreement that the parties shall convene again to discuss the possibility of a new set of implementing rules and regulations concerning enrollment.”

Why doon sa mga LGBTQ+, especially trans women…may kailangan shoulder length [na buhok]? Meron naman mga girls na mahahaba ‘yung buhok…. Hindi naman nakakaapekto ang buhok sa pag-aaral po,” Riotoc said.

(Why in the case of the LGBTQ+, especially trans women, the hair needs to be shoulder length? There are girls who have long hair…. Our hair doesn’t affect our studies.)

The Manila LGBTQI Protection Ordinance of 2020 prohibits the denial of admission and imposing disciplinary action higher than customary against students based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.  

Bahaghari and Rainbow Rights Philippines have also raised the EARIST Manila issue with the Manila city government through a letter to the office of Mayor Honey Lacuna and its gender and development office on March 8.

Meanwhile, Gabriela Representative and House assistant minority leader Arlene Brosas also slammed EARIST for its “discrminatory policies” that “violate the fundamental rights and dignity of students.”

Dapat nang seryosohin ng Kongreso ang pagpasa sa SOGIESC Equality Bill para bigyan ng mas kongkretong proteksyon ang LGBTQ+ community mula sa karahasan tulad ng nangyayari ngayon sa EARIST at iba pang mga paaralan,” she said.

(Congress should prioritize the passage of the SOGIESC Equality Bill to provide the LGBTQ+ community more concrete protection against violence such as what happened in EARIST and other schools.) – 

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Russell Ku

Russell Ku is a digital communications specialist at Rappler who believes in the power of stories to build an empathic society.