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Hender's Right is a Gender Right!

in PHILIPPINES, 28/02/2011

The statement of UP Babaylan on Hender Gercio's case

Universities and institutions of higher learning traditionally embrace progress and reform ahead of other sectors of society. This is because progressive thinking and critical inquiry are encouraged in an academic setting. Philosophers, artists, and scientists are most productive when they are allowed to pursue their quest for the advancement of knowledge unfettered by unthinking prejudice and discrimination. As collaborators in the quest for knowledge, teachers and students are expected to accord each other mutual respect.

We expected no less from the University of the Philippines. But the experience of our sister, Hender Gercio, indicates that we may be wrong.

Hender, a transgender student in the Department of European Languages, repeatedly suffered the indignity of being addressed with the wrong gender by one of her professors. Her pleas for understanding and for her professor to stop were blithely ignored. The professor justified her prejudice by invoking religious dogma. The emotional toll of this experience on Hender is incalculable. This clearly undermines the learning process.

We find Hender’s case ironic in the light of the resounding victory of our other sister, Heart Diño, in the recently held University Student Council elections. Running for USC Councilor as an avowed transgender student, Heart obtained the highest number of votes. Clearly, UP Diliman students embraced the politics of respect and inclusion that Heart exemplified in her campaign. We rejoice in Heart’s path-breaking victory, but Hender’s case reminds us that more work needs to be done.

We, therefore, call on the UP administration to act on Hender’s case with judicious dispatch. We urge the College of Arts and Letters, Diliman Gender Office, Office of Guidance and Counseling, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, University Center for Women’s Studies, and other concerned structures within the university to come and work together to resolve this issue in a rational and participatory manner. We call on UP to formally adopt a non-discrimination policy and code of conduct consistent with its mandate as a public and secular institution of higher learning.

For our part, we offer our collective experience in advocating for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students for more than 18 years. We vow to engage the UP administration towards the crafting of a policy that affirms UP’s commitment to democratic values by recognizing and respecting diversities in sexual orientation and gender identities among members of the UP community. This we will do in the hope that future generations of students, transgender or not, will be able to pursue their education unfettered by prejudice and discrimination.

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