Sunday, August 10, 2008

A letter from Rio

To those of you who’ve been asking about Mae and Rio, here’s an open letter from the latter. Rio Moreno, a woman of transsexual experience and nursing student, has decided, along with her family, to take a stand and let her story be known to everyone who cares about the plight of transgender people.

Absence of care in a caring institution

Having passed the entrance exam for transferees and submitting all requirements, including Birth Certificate, Transcript of Records from QCMC, I was eligible to enroll as an irregular Nursing Student at the Emilio Aguinaldo Colleges.As a bona-fide student, I secured my school ID card with my latest photo and true personal data, indicated therein.I wore the uniform as appropriately designed for girls in the Nursing Department, which is a blouse and a skirt. The above conditions did not in anyway cause any conflict during the succeeding 5 semesters I was enrolled as a regular EAC student, in terms of:
a. Name – I am known as Leo Moreno to my teachers and classmates but they respectfully call me with my preferred name, which is Rio.
b. Gender – I am treated as a girl in all my subjects and school activities
c. Physical Stature – I never encountered any issue for or against my physical being from teachers nor from co-students
d. Discipline – I am always conscious that as a student, I am abiding with all the policies of the school including my choice of uniform, since there is no provision or item in the school handbook that forbid or disallow transgender student to wear any particular uniform.
JUNE 30, 2008
On this day, I had difficulty swiping through my ID at Gate 5. Hence, I sought the assistance of the Security Guard on Duty to help me. After he had successfully swiped my ID, he glanced at it and commented "Bakit Leo? (Why is your name Leo?)". I just ignored the question and thanked him for the help.
JULY 7, 2008
I was notified verbally to report to the Nursing Department's Dean's Office. Upon arrival at the Dean's Office, both Ms. Dumadag (Dean of Nursing) and Mr. Boquiron (Dean of the Office of Student's Affairs) immediately accused me of submitting fraudulent documents for admission to the school. Surprised by this accusation, I told them that all documents, including my birth certificate, were authentic and true. In the course of their insinuations and harsh words, they themselves verified that all my documents are indeed authentic and non-fraudulent.Not finding any other issue with my documents, Mr. Boquiron verbally required me to be identified as a boy and as such, I was required to wear a nursing student's uniform for boys to identify me as a boy and not as a girl. I tried to explain my condition and my identity as a transgender but to no avail, Mr. Boquiron would not consider such gender related talk but instead, insisted that I have to wear what is prescribed for boys/men or else I would be given disciplinary action.
JULY 21, 2008
I submitted the a letter (copy attached) to the President of the School, copy furnished Ms. Dumadag and Mr. Boquiron. This letter was received by Lorie, the Secretary of the President. I was advised by Ms. Lorie that she will give me a call when Mr. Campos, the President is available to see me.
14 July 2008
Office of the PresidentEmilio Aguinaldo College
Dear Sir
I enrolled at Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) because I was impressed by its philosophy that it is "committed to promote, disseminate and propagate an egalitarian education which aims to develop a total person, aware of his identity as a Filipino, yet conscious of his role to promote global peace for the improvement of the quality of human life. "My experience convinced me that EAC is sincere in its philosophy.
The past five semesters were moments of great joy, peace of mind, and productive learning. I was welcomed, accepted and respected for what I am, a woman of transsexual experience.Nobody showed any sign of disrespect and discrimination. I have been identified and treated by my classmates, my professors, and even by members of the school's staff as how I wanted to be identified and treated: as a woman.
They all related to me as a woman, as Miss Moreno. And since I started studying here, I have been wearing the uniform appropriate to my gender identity: the women's uniform. Their respect, compassion, and benevolence made me feel accepted, appreciated, and valued for what I am. Their positive treatment of my individuality and my very humanity made it possible for me to live in peace with my professors, with my classmates, with this school, but above all with myself. Because my psychological well being has been esteemed by this school, I have been deeply inspired to perform very well. Hence, despite the stress that accompanies the life of a working student, my academic performance is beyond reproach. EAC was truly an "egalitarian institution" .
But, alas, on the 7th of July, I was called to report to the dean's office. Ms Dumadag asked me a couple of questions regarding my gender and the documents I use. Then Mr Boquiron asked me the same questions; he then verified that the documents I submitted; they were proven to be authentic. After our meeting, Mr Boquiron required me to wear men's uniform and that I have to be identified and treated as male in this school. This broke my heart, crippled my spirit, and disturbed my peace. He is forcing me to live as my shadow rather than as my authentic self. I have been so stressed about this and found it so hard to concentrate both in my studies and in my work. Nobody deserves such an unnecessary and very unnerving pressure.For five semesters, my gender identity, my gender expression, and my very humanity were questioned by nobody. I have been treated with respect, with dignity, with understanding, and with compassion.
I understand where Mr Boquiron is coming from. He wanted to remain faithful to outdated and oppressive gender norms rather than understand and respect the diversity that my life embodies.I do respect his opinion about me. Nonetheless, I feel that his actions challenge the sincerity of the philosophy of this school. And they run contrary to EAC's objective of designing its practices "after global standards to make the students more equipped in their chosen endeavor".
Having a gender identity opposite to your sex assignment at birth, a condition called transsexualism, is a globally recognized and accepted medical condition. There is a medical consensus, which is now being recognized by humane national governments, that forcing a transsexual person to live according to the norms of their sex assignment at birth would seriously damage their psychological well-being, not to mention that this act is an utter disrespect of that person's right to freedom of expression.
I'd like to finish my studies with my psychological well-being intact and with my human right to express the diversity my life embodies kept respected and supported by EAC.Sir, my future profession as a nurse entails me to afford my patients care, understanding, and compassion. I hope that EAC would be able to inculcate these values not by preaching them but by practicing them.
I hope that EAC would remain faithful in upholding its commitment in "propagating an egalitarian education." I hold a deep profound faith that EAC would take a proactive, progressive, responsive, and compassionate action at par with 21st century global standards. I ardently believe that EAC would consider this as an opportunity to understand what transsexualism is so that EAC will be able to craft policies that will enable our school administrators deal with this issue in a responsible, respectful, civilized, and sensitive way.I trust that EAC will prove that I wasn't wrong at all in choosing it as my university, as my partner in fulfilling my dream to become a nurse.
My warmest gratitude.
Ms Rio Moreno
Legal name: Leo Moreno
Student Number: 06-1-42039
cc: Mr Boquiron Ms Dumadag
JULY 25, 2008
I called up Ms. Lorie to follow up my request to talk to the President but again I was given the same reason that Mr. Campos is still busy. I explained to her that I have been absent from my classes for the past 2 weeks because the Security Guards would not allow me to go inside the campus using my blouse and skirt uniform (girl's uniform). However, Ms. Lorie ignored such explanation in a manner that made me feel that the President does not care about the issue.
JULY 28, 2008
I was accompanied to school by Ms Sass Rogando Sasot, a founding member of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), a non-profit organization. We went to talk to Mr. Boquiron, Office of Student Affairs dean, to clarify the issue and educate them about transsexualism.
Sass began by inquiring whether Mr Boquiron knew anything about transsexualism. Mr Boquiron admitted that he does not know anything about it since he is not a medical person.Mr. Boquiron and Sass then began talking about transsexualism. Sass explained what transsexualism is.
At no point did Mr. Boquiron considered Ms Sasot's explanation of what transsexualism is. He told us not to "force" what we like and that they were just following the rules of the school. Ms Sasot asked whether the school has a rule that transsexuals shall be treated according to their sex assignment at birth. Mr Boquiron said that since that my birth certificate says male, I shall be treated as male.
There had been an exchange of temper and raising of voices between the two of them. Mr Boquiron is not open to the reality that transsexualism is existent and that it is globally and medically recognized. He kept on addressing me as "he and him".
He kept on emphasizing that since the documents I submitted shows that my sex is Male, I should be treated as male. He stated that he is going by what shows on my records.
We were able to resolve the uniform issue. Mr. Boquiron agreed that I could wear the female uniform as long as I wear the pants.
However, Mr Boquiron remained indifferent and disturbingly apathetic when Ms Sasot was pointing out the medical fact that "forcing a transsexual person to live according to the norms of their sex assignment at birth would seriously damage their psychological well-being."
Mr Boquiron and his assistant Mr. Jimmy, said that it is already given that my psychological well being will be damaged.
Ms Sasot clarified their disturbing position of Mr Boquiron and Mr Jimmy about them not being concern about my psychological well-being.
Mr. Jimmy just replied "So?" and he also told Sass that what she was talking about was nonsense as my birth certificate says I'm "male".
This made Ms Sasot raise her voice again and expressed her disgust about a caring institution not caring about the psychological well being of its student. I myself was shocked how they reacted to Ms Sasot's question. This only means that they do not care about their student's psychological well being.

For now, I am going to continue to finish this semester. I will abide by their rules, I will wear an all white women's uniform (pants).
Nurses in the Philippines are exported to different first world countries. These countries, such as America and the U.K., are very open to this issue and they are educated on how to handle these issues. Gender identity is not a criteria to be accepted for school enrollment or employment. It is as long as you are competent and fit for the job.

Medical schools such as Emilio Aguinaldo College should learn the global standards in the medical field. It is a shame that those running this medical school are not only ignorant about these issues but do not show any concern at all to the psychological well being of their student. Their minds and spirits are also closed with this matter. They would rather remain faithful to the oppressive and outdated gender norms rather than show compassion and care.
The way Mr. Boquiron and his assistant Jimmy handled my concern made feel so unappreciated, undervalued, and disrespected.
As a future nurse, I will be encountering patients of all kinds. Understanding, respecting, and appreciating the diversity of patients is a must in the 21st century way of doing business and providing services. There's no better way for me to be able to understand and appreciate the diversity of humanity other than in my school, EAC, showing its respect, understanding, and appreciation of the diversity of its students. Do hospitals ask someone like me to dress in a man's clothing before they provide service? Obviously not.So making me wear men's uniform will surely not improve my psychological well-being, will not help EAC in fulfilling its mission statement, and will not help me appreciate, understand, and respect the diversity of my future patients.I like to be an instrument of change. This is enough.
My family and I would like to bring up this issue to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), to the Philippine Nurses Association, and to the Philippine Commission on Human Rights.
We appreciate any help from anybody who cares about the psychological well-being of transgender people. You may contact me through email: rioizphils@yahoo. com or through my mobile number: +63 906 520 5165.
Sincerely, Ms Rio MorenoMember, Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP)

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