August 15, 2023 (5:44 PM)

6 min read


Graphics by Mariz Cenojas

Transgender students expressed upheaval over the Office of Student Affairs’ (OSA) dress code policy which required them to submit a medical certificate to wear a uniform that aligns with their gender identity and gain a permit of entry to the campus.

Despite already acquiring a medical certificate from a clinical psychologist through the help of the Anthropology and Social Sciences Department, Maic Lapuz, a transman, told Atenews that he felt offended by the requirements, describing the experience as tedious and stressful.

The OSA informed Lapuz that before he could wear the uniform for male students, he must submit a medical certificate and have a one-on-one conversation with the OSA to certify that he is undergoing a transition in his gender identity.

He was also told that the medical certificate was necessary to ensure that the students would not change their minds regarding their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE). The permit, but not necessarily the medical certificate, must also be renewed every semester.

“Niabot ko sa point na dili ko gusto na magprocess na sa medical [certificate] kay tedious na gani siya. Feel nako right man nako na magwear ug comfortable na uniform siguro.” (It reached to the point where I didn’t want to process the medical certificate anymore because it was tedious. I feel like it’s my right to wear a uniform I am comfortable with.)

“Though maunderstand man nako na naa ka isa ka institution na need nimo mag follow ug rules noh pero suffocating man gud kaayo siya sa akua,“ he added. (I understand that we are in an institution; thus, rules must be followed, but it [the rules] were suffocating for me.)

Lapuz narrated that he knew other trans students who settled to wearing the prescribed uniforms, but he did not want to let this issue slide and urged to remove this policy. 

“I don’t think need siya magstay na policy ba if ang purposes lang kay para lang mamake sure na dili na magchange akong mind [regarding my gender identity]. Ano mang paki nila if magchange akong mind?” he said. (I don’t think that the policy must stay if the purpose is solely to make sure that I wouldn’t change my mind [regarding my gender identity]. Why should they care if I change my mind?)

Another trans student, Mike Fabie, also expressed her disappointment upon hearing about the case of Lapuz, noting its contradiction with the university’s inclusivity claims as being transgender should not be defined by a medical procedure.

“Most students don’t have jobs, don’t have the luxury of gender-affirming care like hormone pills, puberty stoppers, and all the things necessary for a queer person to feel at home with their bodies.” 

“Reducing someone to a piece of paper that would define if they were woman or man enough to wear a uniform is just dehumanizing,” she added.

Elliot Dimasuhid, a transman, who was also informed of the same procedure by OSA, shared similar sentiments with Fabie.

“Not all trans individuals have the resources to access medical transitioning procedures, and to treat them based on their apparent sex characteristics is transphobic discrimination.” 

Dimasuhid called to abolish the gender-repressive policies, encouraging the university to make its policies more SOGIE-sensitive for students to exemplify what they have learned effectively.

“Trans students shouldn’t have to compromise their SOGIE—particularly in a setting where they are supposed to feel safe and secure,” he stated.

A backslide in progressiveness

Contrary to the requirements this academic year, AdDU alumna Bri Unabia stated that during their stay at the university, LGBTQIA+ students were free to express themselves as the university administration was relatively more progressive.

“In my two face-to-face years in ADDU, it was a normal occurrence to see unapologetically confident and empowered trans students (even professors!),” Unabia said.

Unabia thinks that the policy mandated for trans students is a backward step for AdDU and is ignorant of the SOGIE nuances.

“Gender identity is a personal and internal sense of oneself as male, female, a blend of both, or neither. It is not defined by medical interventions or the lack thereof.”

Ateneo Libulan Circle (ALC) President Archie Barroga told Atenews that the policy could hurt their efforts of providing liberating spaces for everyone, thus, pushing for policies that are adept to the needs of the queer community.

“As an institution bearing pride as the most progressive school in Davao with students’ freedom on gender expression, we must continue pushing for policies that are appropriate to the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community — including the radical decision of having uniforms align with the student’s gender identity instead of the usual sex-assigned-at birth-will-be-what-you-will-wear -as-a-uniform policy.”

As the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) champion organization in the university, Barroga firmly stands with allowing transgender students wear the uniform that aligns with their gender identity. He affirmed that the issue has already been forwarded to the SAMAHAN Commission on Students’ Rights and Welfare (StRAW) and is waiting for the administration’s response.

“I hope this is a wake-up call for the university to reconsider existing policies and ensure that they are not offending anyone in any way,” Barroga said.

More than about the dress code policy

Sociology and Development Studies full-time professor Dr. Ej Sabado, a transwoman, said that this issue emphasizes the necessity of the SOGIE Equality Bill, questioning the need to ‘medicalize’ one’s gender identity.

“It’s [Being transgender] not anymore a disorder that you really have to medicalize,” she stated.

Dr. Sabado urged to remove the uniforms, noting how this concern has exclusionary implications to the students. She also detailed that this issue stems from a greater fear of trans students using public restrooms that aligns with their gender identity.

“If you want to solve that issue, then i-address natin lahat. Yung uniform policy, gawin nating more inclusive, [and] the best solution, remove it, eradicate it. Tanggalin or if hindi nila matanggal, iallow, respetuhin at dagdagan natin yung all gender restrooms para yung mga taong ‘di nakakaintindi, mabibigyan ng elbow room to adjust.” (If you want to solve that issue, then we have to address everything. The uniform policy, let’s make it more inclusive, [and] the best solution is to remove it, eradicate it. Remove or if they can’t remove it, allow, respect, and add more all-gender restrooms so that those who can’t understand it can be given an elbow room to adjust.)

Dr. Sabado cited that the act of medicalizing one’s gender identity violates the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance of Davao City.

“Some students might use, might resort to that to lodge a complaint against the university in our local government. That is something that Ateneo must avoid.”

End the silence of the gagged!

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