PinayTG

Diary of a Transgender Filipina

Now at pinaytg.blogspot.com

Posted by pinaytg on January 23, 2009

Apologies for this but the other site is much easier for me to navigate.  If you want to continue reading my work, please visit my new blog address above. Thank you. Happy new year!

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The Danish Girl

Posted by pinaytg on November 11, 2008

Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman

I was on the PC late last night sending out emails related to organizing the Pride March here on December 6 when I heard the late night news mention the words “transsexual” and “Nicole Kidman” in the same sentences. Of course I looked. It turns out that the Oscar-winning statuesque Australian beauty is set to play Lili Elbe, considered to be the world’s first transsexual woman inThe Danish Girl, the best-selling first novel of David Ebershoff.

The novel has been translated into several languages and the movie based on it boasts of a casting coup. Lili Elbe, formerly Einar Mogens Wegener was married to another artists Gerda Gottlieb. After Lili had undergone several gender-affirming surgeries, the King of Denmark invalidated the Wegeners’ marriage. Gerda, in the movie, is going to be portrayed by Charlize Theron.

I haven’t read the novel but Lili and Gerda’s story is a fascinating one. Google them to see. Myself, I can’t wait to see the movie. Incidentally, Denmark where Lili was born is going to be the venue for the next World Outgames in the Summer of 2009. Perhaps the World Outgames in Copenhagen can celebrate this Hollywood victory!

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President Barack Obama

Posted by pinaytg on November 5, 2008

Illinois Senator Barack Obama is the new president-elect of the United States of America. I am so moved and touched by this victory. Congratulations to the American people for believing in and voting for change!

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Amazing Philippine Beauties 2008

Posted by pinaytg on November 4, 2008

 


            A group of us went to see the coronation night of Amazing Philippine Beauties 2008 on 24 October 2008, Friday at around 10 pm at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex in Pasay City. I was not surprised that, when we got there, there was already a sizeable crowd waiting to enter the Manila Film Center, one of the many buildings in the CCP Complex and home to the Amazing Philippine Theatre (APT), which according to its web site is the biggest “transvestite” theatre in Asia and sponsor of the now prestigious beauty pageant for Filipina transgender women.

 

            According to those who have been watching the Amazing Philippine Beauties pageant closely, there was a time when the contest was not able to fill up entire rows of seats. The Philippines being a beauty-pageant-crazy country, that has been slowly changing in the last 6 years. And this year was a different story indeed. Not only were all seats taken it was also, in theatre parlance, an SRO (standing room only) crowd that night.

  

 

            Apparently some candidates invited entire neighborhoods including their boyfriends, relatives and friends to see the show. And they were not mere spectators mind you. I saw whole rows of supporters who brought various props to cheer their candidates on including flash cards bearing the number of their candidate raised up at moments when the candidate was on center stage and balloons which were waved in the air every time their candidate received a citation, mention or award.

 

            It was an okay show overall made more enjoyable by the very energetic audience. My main complaint is that it was too long and could have done without too many segments. Also for some reason it was very hot inside the Manila Film Center that evening. Apparently the Korean company which owns APT decided to cut costs and didn’t turn on the air conditioning full blast. The gay couple who accompanied us to the show couldn’t take the heat and just headed home.

           

           

          This year’s winner is Angelika Santillan shown above with judge Dr. Sam Winter, author of Transgender Asia Research, and her runner up, Rosa Garcia who I was rooting for. Angelika bagged several awards while Rosa won best swim suit and was just absolutely stunning in her long gown. Oh well, to be second best is better than nothing. Anyway congrats to both of you girls! You deserve it. J

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From the sacred to the profane to the self: A review of The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela*

Posted by pinaytg on October 29, 2008

           Oscar Wilde once observed that “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.” This was exactly my sentiment last Monday, 20 October 2008, after I along with other members of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) attended the evening screening of the 10th Cinemanila International Film Festival at the Cineplex, Gateway Mall, at Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City. We were there for the Philippine premiere of The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela, or what its Icelandic director Olaf De Fleur calls this 80-minute combination of fact and fiction, a “visiomentary” of a transsexual from Cebu whose dreams of a better life take her from being an internet porn princess to the streets of Paris.

 

            According to De Fleur, a “visiomentary” is a cross between documentary and narrative fiction filmmaking. Apart from this, the movie has no other pretensions. It is not about transsexualism. It is not about the “ladyboy” phenomenon or the highly sexualized version of Asian transgender women. It is not even about what most stories involving transgender characters are about: a coming of age, a reconciliation with and finding of the true self.

 

Many who have seen the movie have dismissed it. One commentator has already called Raquela “just another third world tranny” and the critics may be right in their skepticism. Raquela’s story, after all, is hardly remarkable by any measure and those who are familiar with the transgender community will readily attest that she is in fact a walking cliché: poor, uneducated, and turns tricks for a living. Tell us something we don’t already know, they say.

 

            And yet there is something about Raquela that compels you to watch her: from her unorthodox looks to her inane thoughts about life to her ridiculously impish voice to her journey to Iceland to work in a fish factory and finally to her Parisian rendezvous with her porn web master. Raquela is the transgender shaman venerated in ancient times that the movie mentions in the beginning. She is also the prostitute walking the streets of Cebu. She is the royalty raised by poor farmed who will come back to reclaim her kingdom in the fairy tale told at the end of the movie. Raquela is also now the person, in front of us, who only wants a “chance to live a better life.”

All these elements come together in a heartfelt way to reveal one amazing truth: that she is us.

 

*The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela has won Best Feature in the Teddy Awards at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival, Best International Feature and Showtime Vanguard Award at the New York LGBT Film Festival, and the Jury Prize for its Special Contribution to Contemporary Film Expression at Cinema City.

 

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What’s in a Supreme Court decision (Part 4)?

Posted by pinaytg on October 7, 2008

I think that the main reason why Jeff Cagandahan’s petition was granted by the Philippine Supreme Court (SC) is luck. He was lucky to have had that set of judges who decided to be compassionate to his situation and permit him to change his name and sex in his birth certificate. The SC ruling on Dr. Silverio’s case said it all: “[n]o judge or court shall decline to render judgment by reason of the silence, obscurity or insufficiency of the law.”

 

So that is what exactly happened here. While with Dr. Silverio’s case the SC chose to affirm the “silence, obscurity or insufficiency of the law”, it chose to do the opposite with Cagandahan. The SC went out of its way to try to understand intersex conditions (albeit in a way that left much to be desired: by perusing Wikipedia entries) and ruled in a way that affirmed what legal expert Louis Swartz calls the common sense belief that that “the law should change with the times, be up to date, should be practical and realistic.”

 

In spite of the fact that the law is silent on both transsexualism and intersex, this did not stop the SC from making a ruling concerning the latter. And in the practical concern of resolving Jeff Cagandahan’s gender, the SC chose to be modern and realistic. Since Cagandahan’s CAH makes him male and since he presents and thinks of himself as one in spite of chromosomal and genital evidence to the contrary, then by all intents and purposes he is male.

 

Why did the same thing not happen in Dr. Silverio’s/Mely case? Simple. Homophobia. If you read the SC ruling on Mely, the first thing that will strike you is the fact that it begins with a quote from two creation stories, one from Genesis in the Bible and another from the Martial Law-manufactured Philippine creation myth, The Legend of Malakas (Strong) and Maganda (Beautiful).

 

The SC could have chosen to understand transsexualism. It is after all a medical condition recognized globally. (And there is a Wikipedia entry on it!) Add to that a ton of case law from all over the world that spotlights the issue. Just two years ago in 2006 even the South Korean Supreme Court allowed a female citizen who transitioned to male to change his gender in his registry. In his decision, ruling Justice Kim Ji-hyung said “If one is clearly recognizable as the opposite sex in both appearance and individual and social life after having sex-change surgery, he or she has the right to pursue dignity, value and happiness as a human and live humanely.”

In Europe, countries like Spain, Poland, Germany Lithuania, Romania, Netherlands, and Ireland grant legal recognition to their transsexual citizens. The UK, for instance, has a Gender Recognition Law in place that recognizes the gender of British transsexuals and their right to legal name and sex changes in documents. In Australia and New Zealand, marriages where one spouse is transsexual are now recognized. In Cuba, sex-reassignment surgery is sanctioned by the State. In some American states and jurisdictions, trans people are protected by gender-identity-and-expression-inclusive laws. In Asia, countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, China, HK and Japan all have trans friendly laws. The SC could have turned to all these to render an objective judgment but it did not.

 

Partly to blame in what happened is probably Mely’s own legal team. In Part 3, I said that even if Mely’s lawyer informed the court that she did not identify as the gender she was assigned at birth, he did not justify it properly. The main reason why Mely identifies as female is because that is her gender identity. And the reason why her gender identity is directly opposite to her birth-assigned sex is because she has a condition called transsexualism. They could have introduced the discourse of transgenderism/transsexualism into their argumentation but they did not. Instead they skirted the issue and simply attempted to appeal to the court’s sense of humanity. That tack did not serve them well. And in the end, unlike in Cagandahan’s case where the court was properly educated on intersex conditions like CAH, the SC in Mely’s case remained ignorant about transsexualism and its attendant issues and concerns.

 

So what you have here is a ruling that is clearly influenced by Judeo-Christian bias. If you compare the Cagandhan and Silverio rulings, you will see that in the former the SC uses gender-appropriate pronouns while the same could not be said of the latter. (It is mentioned somewhere also that perhaps it is the patriarchy at work in the Cagandahan decision: a female wanting to be male is preferable than a male wanting to be female.) In the SC ruling against Mely, she is repeatedly referred to as a he and is described as someone whose “female anatomy is all man-made. The body that he inhabits is a male-body in all aspects other than what the physician has supplied.” In denying Mely, the SC also touched on the issue of marriage. It said that Philippine law does not allow the marriage of a “man to another man who has undergone sex-reassignment.”

 

So where does this leave us, transsexual Filipinos? The only way out is through legislation. This is also what the SC said, in fact, in ruling against Mely. A law needs to be passed that will recognize the gender a transsexual person identifies as. Until that time comes, going to the courts may not be the most productive thing to do. Besides, this SC ruling on Mely puts all Filipino transsexuals in a precarious legal footing. Just last year, a trans woman’s case was also brought to the CA by the OSG. After reviewing her case, the CA overturned a favorable lower court decision on her petition for a name and sex change in her birth certificate. Clearly, the local courts now cannot serve as the sole venue to clarify our legal status. Thus, the time has come for the transgender and transsexual community to come together and ask our Congress to pass a law that will recognize us, our gender as people and our rights as citizens of this country.

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What’s in a Supreme Court decision (Part 3)?

Posted by pinaytg on October 4, 2008

           One of the major issues we, transsexual people, have to contend with is our legal status. Regardless of where we are in our transition (which I define here as the optional process of changing our gender expression and anatomy through hormones and surgeries), we as a community are in agreement that legal recognition of the gender we identify as and not the one wrongly assigned to us at birth should be available to all. Without a law that recognizes transsexualism as a physical and biological condition, however, many Filipino transsexuals have had no other recourse but to go to the courts for a legal change of name and sex.

                                    

Prior to the Supreme Court decisions on Jeff Cagandahan (Republic of the Philippines vs. Jennifer Cagandahan) and Dr. Mely Silverio (Silverio vs. Republic of the Philippines), there has been a substantial number of trans women whose petitions have been granted by local judges all over the Philippines. It is safe to assume that these cases were favored by the courts on the same grounds as Dr. Silverio’s was by the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) that heard her case: equity, the fact that the petitioner has undergone medical procedures resulting in significant bodily changes and the fact that the petitioner identifies as a gender directly opposite to the one assigned at birth.

 

Unfortunately, the first two reasons proved shaky when put through legal scrutiny as demonstrated in the Silverio case. The SC argued that granting Dr. Silverio’s request would raise public policy questions that equity alone could not justify. Moreover, even if there was no law that disallowed sex-reassignment surgery (SRS), there was also no law that legally recognized it. On these two points, Dr. Silverio’s petition was denied by the SC.

 

So it was shocking to see the SC rule in favor of Jeff Cagandahan because while the intersex and transgender rights movement agree that intersex conditions and transsexualism greatly differ, our issues do overlap. Nowhere is this truer than in the case of Cagandahan and Silverio. Both had biological conditions that invalidated the sex assigned to them at birth. Both were seeking the same judicial relief: a change of name and sex in the birth certificate. Both cases raised quality of life issues. Both were about gender identity.

 

The SC could have sided with the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) which was questioning the lower court decision that favored Cagandahan’s request, easily taken its cue from the Silverio ruling and denied Cagandahan by citing the same reasons it did in Silverio’s case:

1)      there is no law that allows change of first name on the basis of intersex

2)      there is also no law that allows change of sex in the birth certificate due to intersex and

3)      that equity alone cannot justify a change in a person’s name and sex in the birth certificate

 

The SC could have also raised the same public policy questions it hoisted against Dr. Silverio but it did not. Instead it ruled in Cagandahan’s favor which for me, more than anything, emphasizes the arbitrariness of the law. In the Silverio ruling, the SC argued that sex as a status is permanent and that sex assignment at birth, based on genital inspection and when not attended by error, is immutable. The Cagandahan decision contradicts this. According to the SC, in Cagandahan’s case gender classification at birth is inconclusive. But the same argument could have been used to favor Dr. Silverio because she was assigned one sex at birth and grew up identifying as another. In fact because of her condition, recognized globally as transsexualism, Dr. Silverio availed of medical procedures to align her identity with her body. She underwent hormone replacement therapy and various gender affirming surgeries which should have been enough to show the court that her genitals were not only mutable her sex assignment at birth was inconclusive. Clearly, Dr. Silverio is living proof that genitalia alone do not determine gender.

 

In the Silverio decision, the SC defined male and female saying female is “the sex that produces ova and bears young” while male is “the sex that has organs that produces spermatozoa for fertilizing ova”. Cagandahan has internal female reproductive organs. His genitals are ambiguous. It is not known if he produces sperm. Where does he figure then in this SC definition of the sexes? Clearly, this definition is problematic because it is simplistic and unrealistic. There will always be people like Cagandahan and Dr. Silverio who will never fit such a narrow view. Does this mean that they will forever be in legal limbo? Apparently not as shown by the SC when it ruled in favor of Cagandahan. There are actually many other intersex conditions that will challenge the definition of what is male and female in the Silverio case. Cagandahan’s condition known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is just one example. I wonder though if someone intersex came forward and petitioned the court to recognize him/her as not male, nor female but intersex. Would the court have allowed it?

 

Finally, the SC in the Silverio case reiterated its duty of merely applying and interpreting laws and not creating or amending them. Because no law allows the recognition of the gender a transsexual identifies as, then Dr. Silverio’s sex assignment in her birth certificate cannot be changed. But the same facts apply in the Cagandahan case. There exists no legislation recognizing the gender chosen by people with intersex conditions! What’s more, there is also no law that mentions or even acknowledges their and their condition’s existence. So what gives?

 

I will try to answer this in the fourth and hopefully final part of this post. For now, I leave you these thoughts to ponder on. Happy weekend everyone!

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Calling all graphic artists!

Posted by pinaytg on 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.

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. J The winner must also waive the copyrights of the emblem/logo and shall not hold TFP under any copyright infringement violation.

Mechanics:

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

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GALANG launch solidarity message

Posted by pinaytg on September 29, 2008

         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. Since I was out of town then, my good friend Sass Sasot, co-founder of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) kindly delivered it for me. I thank her and Anne Lim (the current president of GALANG) sincerely. J

 

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 of our own friends from the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) were refused entrance. A similar incident happened in Café Havana recently involving two other trans women 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. J 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!

 

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

Posted by pinaytg on September 29, 2008

           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:

  1. there is no law that allows change of first name on the basis of SRS
  2. there is also no law that allows change of sex in the birth certificate due to SRS and
  3. 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 SRS

In 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 equity

            The 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.

 

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