Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mae and Rio: Two stories of discrimination Part II


For five semesters, Rio attended Nursing school wearing the women’s uniform. All her classmates and teachers referred to her as Miss Rio and she looked forward to finishing her studies and becoming a nurse. Rio has spent the last five semesters happy in the university which her boyfriend also attends.

Sometime in July, after one of the security guards saw that Rio’s name on her ID was male, Rio was asked to go into the Office of Student Affairs (OSA). There the OSA Head discussed the next steps to take regarding Rio’s “true” identity. The OSA Head decided that from then on Rio should be addressed as male and required to wear the men’s uniform.

Rio protested and made it clear to the school official that she did not identify as male, which is why she did not once come to school as one. The OSA head argued that until Rio’s gender in her official documents remains unchanged, the school is officially treating her as a man.

Rio decided that her best recourse was to meet immediately with the President of the university to discuss her case. The President’s secretary scheduled a meeting but the President remains out of the country on a trip. In the mean time, Rio showed up in school dressed as she had always been the last three years. The security guard, who let her in, in the past, now refused her entry. According to him, the OSA head left instructions to make sure that Rio came in wearing the prescribed uniform for male students. Feeling shamed and helpless, Rio just went back home. Already, she has missed classes. Rio has spent the last few days, restless, anxious and afraid. Like Mae, she fears for her future.

Education and employment remain the two crucial areas where Filipino transgender people struggle for full participation. Despite comprising a big chunk of the total population and being acknowledged as part of a culture that dates back to pre-colonial times, transgender citizens of this country continue to face hurdles in trying to finish school and being gainfully employed. It’s time to put a stop to this oppression. It’s time to open the doors to full transgender inclusion.

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