Monday, September 29, 2008


Below is an ivitation to volunteer your talent and creativity to Task Force Pride (TFP), the network of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations and individuals that has been organizing the annual Pride March in Manila since 1999. The call is being made by our fabulous and gorgeous Finance and Marketing Committee Head, Ms. Dee Mendoza.

Calling all Graphic Artists:

This year’s Manila Pride March will be the 10th. To mark this milestone, the ExeCom Members of Task Force Pride (TFP) 2008 plan to have a commemorative 10th year identity in line with the theme A decade of dignity: Our rights, our lives, our loves, our selves.

This commemorative emblem/logo will stand side-by-side the TFP logo. It will be used in all print/online collaterals, such as flyers, banners, posters, website, etc.

TFP, being a voluntary organization, will only be able to award the bragging rights to the winner. :) The winner must also waive the copyrights of the emblem/logo and shall not hold TFP under any copyright infringement violation.

1. We suggest that this identity play with the number 10 or a stylized form of it.
2. It can be a single color or more.
3. If colored, please render it in black and white, as well.
4. Please render the logo in high-resolution for ease of printing when rendered in large format.
5. One person may submit one or more entries.
6. Upon submission, please include your name, mobile number and email address.
Deadline for submission of entries will be on October 5, 2008. Email entries to divamanila@yahoo. com.

For questions, please feel free to call me at 0918.250.7470.

Please feel free to pass this call-out.

Thank you,

Dee Mendoza
Finance and Marketing Committee Head
TFP 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

GALANG launch solidarity message

Below is the solidarity speech I wrote for the launch of GALANG (Gay and Lesbian Activist Network for Gender Equality), a new LGBT organization working at the grass roots level here, at Café Rallos along Tomas Morato in Quezon City last 20 September 2008. I heard it was very successful and well-attended. I was out of town but somebody else kindly delivered it for me. I thank Anne Lim (the current president of GALANG) sincerely. :)

Good evening! Congratulations to GALANG and welcome to the family of Filipino sex and gender rights advocates. Every time there is a new organization that will fight lesbian, gay, bisexual, bakla/bayot/bantut, tomboy and transgender or LGBT oppression, it is important that we as a community come together in support.

It is important, particularly at this time, because the movement advocating for LGBT rights that we all belong to, have grown up with, and have come to love is almost pushing 20 years. That’s almost one score of rallying tirelessly in the streets, of relentlessly campaigning in and educating our communities, and of indefatigably advocating in our homes, schools, churches, places of work, legislatures and elsewhere. That’s almost two decades of truly hard work and solidarity and yet it seems there remains so much more to be done.

The fact is that after 15 years or so of LGBT activism in the country and in spite of one local ordinance in Quezon City there is no other law, municipal or national, that grants civil rights protections to LGBT Filipinos. Thus, many if not most of us remain vulnerable to violence and discrimination in education, housing, health care, the legal system, employment and other public accommodations; and this while our community is caught in the cusp of history. This year, we are not only commemorating the 60th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR60) and the 30th year of the Rainbow Flag but also putting up the10th Pride March.

Surely these are milestones in our history and before we celebrate them, isn’t it time we paused and took stock of our community and the direction it is taking? I think that the time to ask ourselves the hard questions has come. It is now. After 10 years of declaring ourselves and our dignity in the streets, of proudly marching with friends, lovers, family and equals, has the quality of life of the average LGBT Filipino changed for the better? After almost 20 years of advocacy, have we instituted real social change that would increase and improve the life chances of the generation that will come after us?

Just in the first quarter of this year, we all witnessed the sad story of Jan Jan whose rectal surgery was turned into a circus spectacle by the very practitioners who were supposed to give him competent and professional medical care; then we saw the raids by unscrupulous policemen of gay bars and bathhouses, which was also milked for ratings by several media outlets. After this we heard members of the Catholic clergy wanting to ban transgender people from joining the Santacruzan. This was followed by the Ice Vodka Bar incident where several transgender people were refused entrance. A similar incident happened in Café Havana recently involving two transwomen from Cebu. Any day now, we will hear another story of indignity involving a member of our community.

Certainly, it is a good thing when young, enthusiastic and idealistic people like the members of GALANG and others who are here come along and say “I’ve had enough! That is oppression and I want to fight it!” but it is also equally important for them to be able to look back in the past and see where others who came before them have failed, have erred and could have done so much more. It is undeniably a good thing if our community can learn our lessons and vow not to make the same mistakes and do better next time.

Because this is also ultimately how our activism will be sustained: always, always in the spirit of renewal. This is why every time a new group of people comes together and so decides to take on the challenge of advocating for LGBT equality and acceptance, we must rally behind them to show how much we appreciate it. For our community needs as many people who care as possible. Hopefully they will be fresh-faced, dynamic and vibrant people who will continue our struggle, who will explore new and inspiring ways of doing LGBT rights advocacy, who will not be afraid to face head on and challenge the institutions that oppress and marginalize us, who will willingly work together, listen to and learn from each other, and who will put aside their differences and agree to disagree but still be mature and professional enough to keep doing the work at hand. Hopefully they will not use our community for their own selfish interests but instead will always have the interests of the community at heart. Hopefully they will steer the community in the right direction and do it with integrity, humility, and unselfish service.

So GALANG faces a tall order tonight. :) But it is always good to begin with high expectations because history will unquestionably judge us. When that time comes, let us hope that posterity will look back at all of us only kindly and say we did right by them. Soon our nation will face another Presidential election and a new race to Congress. And I say, there has been no better time to be an advocate for LGBT rights than now. Almost 10 years into the 21st century and already we can see that societal mindsets are changing. Even non-LGBT people are becoming bolder and are fighting back against one of our biggest foes, the Church because of the reproductive health controversy. The political landscape as well is shifting as it is peopled more and more by young and vibrant politicians who speak our language. Meanwhile, the international community continues to offer us their unwavering support.

I hope we can take advantage of this permissive climate and seize all these opportunities to further our cause. Indeed, this is the best time to get our act together as a community and solidify our unity. And a good way to start is by welcoming the efforts of people who want to put up new organizations like GALANG, brave young activists who will hopefully take the lessons of the past and harness them into a more dynamic, vibrant, collegial, intelligent, strategic and effective activism. So congratulations GALANG! Mabuhay kayo at maraming salamat po!

What's in a Supreme Court decision (Part 2)?

As I mentioned in Part 1, last year the Philippine Supreme Court (SC) issued a ruling on a case filed by Dr. Mely Silverio, a trans woman petitioning for a legal change of first name and sex in her birth certificate. Dr. Silverio initially filed her petition in 2002 at a Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) which heard it and subsequently granted her request. The RTC ruled in her favor on the basis of her sex-reassignment and in the interest of justice and equity. In 2003 however, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to review the RTC’s decision arguing that no law allowed any change of entry in a person’s birth certificate by virtue of sex re-assignment surgery (SRS).

In 2006 the CA overturned the RTC decision which led the petitioner to bring her case to the SC. The year after in 2007 the SC released its decision on the matter. It did not only concur with the CA but also ruled that the petitioner’s case lacked merit. In the decision, penned by Associate Justice Renato Corona and agreed upon by Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Associate Justices Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Adolfo S. Azcuna, and Cancio Garcia, the SC denied the petition on the following grounds:
a) there is no law that allows change of first name on the basis of SRS
b) there is also no law that allows change of sex in the birth certificate due to SRS and
c) a person’s name and sex in the birth certificate cannot be changed merely on the basis of equity

No law allows change of first name due to SRSIn the Philippines, a Civil Code provision expressly forbids a person from changing his/her first or last name without judicial authority. This changed in 2001 upon the passage of Republic Act 9048 (RA 9048) also known as the Clerical Error Law, which allows the city/municipal civil registrar or consul general to correct a clerical/typographical error in an entry or change the first/nick name in the civil register without need of a judicial order.

In the ruling against Dr. Silverio, the SC pointed out the fact that she filed her petition in the wrong venue. Instead, she should have gone to her local Civil Registrar and asked for a change of first name there on any of the following grounds (Section 4, RA 9048):
a) The petitioner finds the first/nick name to be ridiculous, tainted with dishonor or extremely difficult to write or pronounce
b) The new first/nick name has been habitually and continuously used by the petitioner and s/he has been known by that first/nick name in the community
c) The change will avoid confusion.

The SC also argued that because Dr. Silverio used her SRS as her primary reason for seeking a legal name change and nowhere in RA 9048 is SRS mentioned as a valid ground for a change of name, her petition was denied. And if Dr. Silverio had gone to the Civil Registrar she should have been able to demonstrate that using her original name caused her undue prejudice. The SC said she failed to do that. In sum, the SC overturned the RTC’s ruling because Dr. Silverio sought the wrong remedy by going to the courts instead of the Civil Registrar’s office. The SC said that she filed her petition in the wrong venue. Moreover, using her legally recognized name did not cause her undue prejudice so her petition lacked merit.

No law allows change of sex due to SRS
Although RA 9048 allows changes in entry in the civil register in view of clerical or typographical errors, it expressly forbids any change in the petitioner’s nationality, age, status or sex. According to the SC, no error was entered in Dr.Silverio’s birth certificate therefore correcting her sex even after SRS is not necessary. Her SRS is not a valid reason for granting her request to have her sex legally changed as long as what is reflected in her birth certificate is the sex assigned to her at birth. The SC ruled that that assignment, if not attended by error, is immutable even post-SRS.

Further, the SC provides a definition of sex and what male and female is. According to the SC with no contrary legislative intent these terms are to be given their common ordinary meaning. Thus, sex is “the sum of peculiarities of structure and function that distinguish a male from a female”. Female, meanwhile, is “the sex that produces ova or bears young” while male is “the sex that has organs to produce spermatozoa for fertilizing ova”. These definitions, according to the SC, clearly exclude people who’ve undergone SRS. And since no law recognizes their SRS, a request to change sex in the birth certificate has no legal basis.

Name and sex in the birth certificate cannot be changed on the basis of equityThe SC also opined that the RTC’s favorable ruling toward Dr. Silverio on the ground that it would cause no one harm, injury or prejudice was wrong. In fact, the SC claimed that granting Dr. Silverio’s request would impact on Philippine marriage laws (as it would allow the marriage of a man to another man who has undergone SRS), provisions made for women in the Labor Code and the Revised Penal Code and presumption of survivorship in case of calamities (i.e., if two people die in a calamity, and both are under 15 or over 60, the male is presumed to have survive; if they’re of the same sex, the older is presumed to have survived). The SC argued that Dr. Silverio’s petition raised questions regarding matters of public policy which could only be addressed by legislation and not a judicial ruling. The SC added that it was not its responsibility to create or change law but to apply and interpret it. Although the SC recognized the hard life facing people like Dr. Silverio whose “preferences and orientation do not fit neatly into the socially recognized parameters of social convention” it still concluded that Dr. Silverio’s petition could only be remedied through legislation, that is if a law were passed recognizing the new gender of people who’ve undergone SRS.

In the third installment of this post, I will compare these two SC rulings and argue for legislation as the best option for transsexuals in seeking legal change of first name and sex in their documents.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Boracay here I come!

I'm off to the beach for now for a long overdue mini-vacation with girl friends from work. This will be the nth time I'm flying to Boracay, one of my favorite places on Earth. I'm looking forward to a relaxing weekend under the sun and hope you have the same. Be well then and see you all when I get back! *FLYING KISSES FROM PinayTG*

What's in a Supreme Court decision (Part I)?

Last night no sooner had I caught my breath after a run at the University of the Philippines (UP) than I got a text message from Malu Marin, a long time advocate of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in the country and now the Executive Director of Action for Health Initiatives (ACHIEVE), an HIV/AIDS NGO for Filipino migrant workers. Apparently word about a Supreme Court (SC) decision allowing someone intersex to have a legal name and gender change in his documents made it to the evening news and Malu was all too happy to break it to me. I wasn’t home last night but excitedly sent out text messages about the SC decision to some of my trans friends. Everyone was hopeful it would open the doors to trans recognition in law in the future.

This morning when I got to work I accessed the SC decision online. Entitled The Republic of the Philippines vs. Jennifer Cagandahan, the September 12 ruling is nothing short of astounding. I had the same reaction as last night when I first heard about it: “OH MY GOD!” You see, Jennifer Cagandahan, the respondent has congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), an intersex condition where a baby, born with XX (female) chromosomes, masculinizes during puberty. Due to CAH, the respondent has ambiguous genitalia (in this case, a swollen clitoris with a urethral opening at the base which the court describes as appearing more male than female) and internal female reproductive organs. The respondent has a uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. But the respondent also developed male secondary sex characteristics during puberty such as facial hair and deepened voice and did not menstruate. Five years ago, the respondent petitioned a Laguna Regional Trial Court (RTC) seeking a legal change of name and sex. The petition was granted by the RTC but was challenged on a technicality involving the new Civil Registrar Law (Republic Act 9048) by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), which brought it to the SC. Six days ago, the SC ruled in favor of the respondent not only saying that the petition did not violate RA 9048 but also granting the request to change in the respondent’s birth certificate the name Jennifer to Jeff and the gender female to male.

In the ruling, penned by Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing and agreed to by Associate Justices Conchita Carpio Morales, Dante O. Tinga, Presbiterio J. Velasco, Jr., Arturo Brion and signed by Chief Justice Reynato Puno, the SC says:

“Ultimately, we are of the view that where the person is biologically or naturally intersex the determining factor in his gender classification would be what the individual, like respondent, having reached the age of majority, with good reason thinks of his/her sex. Respondent here thinks of himself as a male and considering that his body produces high levels of male hormones (androgen) there is preponderant biological support for considering him as being male. Sexual development in cases of intersex persons makes the gender classification at birth inconclusive. It is at maturity that the gender of such persons, like respondent, is fixed.”

Furthermore, the court argued that Jeff was competent enough to decide his gender for himself and with Nature on his side, Jeff had already been revealed to be male. Without a law that dealt with intersex conditions, the SC could not tell Jeff what to do. They could not ask him to choose genders nor could they ask him to correct his condition through medical means. According to the ruling “Respondent is the one who has to live with his intersex anatomy. To him belongs the human right to the pursuit of happiness and of health. Thus, to him should belong the primordial choice of what course of action to take along the path of his sexual development and maturation.”

OH MY GOD! This is almost too good to be true. It is breathtakingly unbelievable. I can hardly believe it. I am so shocked and yet so impressed as well by this. It is such a far cry from the 2007 SC decision on a case involving a trans woman who filed the same petition but was denied by the same court (composed of a different set of people, mind you, save for the Chief Justice). While this one is compassionate, logical, reasonable and scientific that one reeked of ignorance, ill logic, homophobia and transphobia. I will write more about that now infamous ruling in the next post.

For now, I just want to congratulate Jeff and his legal team on their victory which the court interprets as their giving respect to “(1) the diversity of nature; and (2) how an individual deals with what nature has handed out.” Alas, this is the exact same thing all gender advocates have been fighting for all along: for everyone to recognize diversity in gender and an individual's agency to decide a matter as personal as gender identity! I hope that this ruling spells a brighter legal future for us transsexual Filipinos. Right now I need to catch my breath again. :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

HK airport detains Filipina trans women

Dear friends,

It has recently come to the knowledge of the members of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) that it is now customary for Hong Kong (HK) immigration officials to detain Filipina transgender/transsexual (trans) women at the HK airport.

We have been receiving anecdotes of various Filipina trans women who were approached by immigration officers while waiting in line to enter HK and asked to follow them to holding rooms. When the women asked why, the officers said it was a standard "security check."

Once inside these "holding" areas, these trans women's treatment varies. Some of them are outrightly accused of being prostitutes and more often than nor asked how much money they are carrying, as if that would prove they are not there for sex work. One, in fact, suffered the inhuman experience of being strip searched. Some are held for hours without being informed of the reason for their detention; while some others have been asked to exit HK at once with no official document stating the reason why.

We are trying to document these cases because we fear that some kind of profiling is happening at the HK airport. These means that ALL Filipina trans women entering HK are immediately suspected of doing illegal activities in this Special Administrative Region (SAR)--a clear case of discrimination. Furthermore, these "security checks" are very arbitrary. There seems to be no standard process being followed in the detention and interview of these women and many of them are disrespected and treated inhumanely. The period of stay they are granted, if they are allowed to enter HK, varies as well from 2 days to 14, the standard maximum for tourists. The waiting time in the holding rooms is also inconsistent. Some are held for an hour or two while others are held for longer. And when let go, all trans women report of not having received documentation of their detention.

In this regard, we would like to ask your help in gathering information. If you know any Filipina trans woman who's been to HK and experienced this indignity, please ask her to detail what happened to her. It will help if we get the following information:

1. Name
2. Age
3. Profession/Student
4. Date/s of entry to HK when you were asked to go to the immigration office
5. Time (if you still remember) of your arrival in HK
6. Carrier you took to HK (CebuPac, PAL, Cathay, etc.) & Flight Number
7. Purpose of your trip/s to HK (tourism, business, conference, study, etc.)
8. Number of hours or minutes you were "detained"
9. Other "complaints"

We are asking our trans women friends to be brave and come forward with their stories of illegal detention at the HK airport as we plan to bring this "unspoken rule" to the attention of the Chinese/HK embassy here in Manila. We are also appealing to our lawyer friends to provide us with legal advice on the matter. Also, if you have the contact details of HK/Chinese LGBT groups, activists, LGBT-friendly media, and anybody who you think can help us shed light on this issue and rectify it, please help us get in touch with them.

We will appreciate any help. Thank you very much. Together, let’s fight LGBT oppression.

In solidarity,

Dee Mendoza
Chair, STRAP

Pau Fontanos
Secretariat, Ang Ladlad

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

...and Pride season begins in Manila...

There is a reason why I have not blogged in the past two weeks. I have not only been chasing various deadlines at work but have also been up to my neck with work for Task Force Pride (TFP) Philippines. TFP, as some of you may know, is the network of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations and individuals that has been organizing the annual Pride March in Manila since 1999.

This year TFP marks a milestone by holding its 10th Pride parade. Although the Pride March in Manila used to be held around June in time for the Stonewall commemorations, it was moved to December at some point because of the monsoon season. June is a very wet month in the Philippines and we’ve had Pride Marches that got drenched in rain albeit the celebrations went on. To solve this weather problem, TFP members decided to hold the Pride parade during the first weekend of December instead as part of the World Human Rights Week festivities.

This year’s Pride March is especially significant for three other reasons: 1) It coincides with the celebration of the 60th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR60), 2) It will serve as the venue for the possible launch of the Yogyakarta Principles in Manila, which is an international declaration that applies international human rights law to matters pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and 3) It will be the first time TFP will be headed by two women of transsexual experience: myself and Sass Sasot of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP).

When we had our first meeting in early August I was so moved by the turn out. We had around 9 organizations represented and 26 individuals present. We had members of Ang Ladlad, the national organization of LGBT Filipinos of which I am also part, Boys’ Legion, a gay, bisexual and trans (GBT) youth organization, Circle of Friends (CoF), a socio-civic group of discreet gay and bisexual men, Gay and Lesbian Activist Network for Gender Equality (GALANG), an LGBT group working at the grass roots level, Female Artists and Musicians’ Evolution (FAME), an all women’s art and music group, Lunduyan ng Sining, an artist group for women loving women, Rainbow Rights (R-Rights) Project, Inc., a policy think tank composed of LGBT lawyers, Team Pilipinas, a group of Filipino LGBTs who’ve joined the World Out Games and other international LGBT sports fests, and of course UP Babaylan, the first ever LGBT student group in the University of the Philippines System.

Everyone is excited to work for TFP because it is aiming high this year. TFP members are raring to celebrate the 10th Pride March in a big way, with more color, festivity, glitz and glamour. There are so many plans and I will tell you more about those later on. This year also marks the longest Pride Season, the period of time, set by TFP wherein its member organizations hold various activities leading up to the Pride parade.
Our kick off activity was a forum on trans women’s issues sponsored by R-Rights last August 30 at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. It was followed by a reproductive health community outreach activity by UP Babaylan on September 1. Then R-Rights in cooperation with LNS and Radar Pridewear, the first alternative lifestyle fashion line for women, held the 4th Dyke Dialogues featuring nationally respected women’s leader, Aida Santos last September 13. That was followed on Sunday, September 14, by the 2nd church anniversary of the Metropolitan Community Church in Quezon City (QC) and the ordination of their Pastor, Pastor Ceejay Agbayani. As you know MCC is a global Christian Church that is inclusive towards LGBT people.

This week the LGBT community is getting ready to attend two other events that are part of Pride Season: the launch of INVOICE, a new LGBT magazine and GALANG. The INVOICE launch will happen this Friday, September 19 at Bed Bar in Malate while GALANG will be launched at Café Rallos, in Tomas Morato in QC on Saturday, September 20. After these two big events, TFP will celebrate the anniversary of LNS when they hold a lesbian love letter reading on the 27th of September. We are all excited about that. Anything about love and I am going. J There are more events lined up for this season's celebration of LGBT Pride so stay tuned for that.

The TFP team is also very proud of the theme we came up with this year. The 2008 LGBT Pride March will celebrate A decade of dignity: Our rights, our lives, our loves, our selves. I’ll tell you more on that later. For now, I’m just happy to announce that right now in Manila it is Pride season once again. And I hope you can help us make it a truly momentous and successful occasion.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"Smart woman"

Although I generally detest spam or forwarded messages in general, I kinda liked this one I got this morning. I opened my email at work, saw the subject line which said Smart woman and was intrigued enough to read it. I think it’s a bit dated though and feel that I’ve read this before somewhere. Anyway, it made me chuckle at least. I hope it makes you react the same way.

One morning the husband returns after several hours of fishing and decides to take a nap. Although not familiar with the lake, the wife decides to take the boat out. She motors out a short distance, anchors, and reads her book.

Along comes a Game Warden in his boat. He pulls up alongside the woman and says, ‘Good morning, Ma'am. What are you doing?'

'Reading a book,' she replies, (thinking, 'Isn't that obvious?')

'You're in a Restricted Fishing Area,' he informs her.

'I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading.'

'Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up.'

'For reading a book,' she replies.

'You're in a Restricted Fishing Area,' he informs her again.

'I'm sorry, officer, but I'm not fishing. I'm reading.'

'Yes, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment. I'll have to take you in and write you up.'

'If you do that, I'll have to charge you with sexual assault,' says the woman.

'But I haven't even touched you,' says the game warden.

'That's true, but you have all the equipment. For all I know you could start at any moment.'

'Have a nice day ma'am,' and he left.

MORAL: Never argue with a woman who reads. It's likely she can also think. Send this to women who are thinkers.