A University in Tarlac initially disallowed at least 6 transgender women from wearing dresses to their graduation ceremony. The reason given was that it is a common policy for State Universities to enforce such a dress code. However, students of the concerned university contested this and discussed the policy with the school’s administration.
Ivern Doroteo Arcache, one of the affected transgender women, explained the situation. The dress code was announced during a graduation meeting with no chance for dialogue which pushed students to question the rule. While the University insisted their policy was based on a general mandate, Ivern challenged this by giving examples of other state universities. Pangasinan State University is one such state university that allows transgender individuals to dress as they wish.
Ivern describes in an interview with ABS-CBN:
I felt really discriminated, I even said na mayroon pong mga operada na sa’min, then she (university president) still said no dahil wala raw po kami respeto sa tradisyon at kultura.
[I even said there are some of us who have already undergone surgeries, then she still said no because we supposedly have no respect for tradition and culture.]
Ini-insist niya na lalaki pa rin kami at kailangan namin sumunod kasi ‘yun daw po ang standard na sinusunod for all state colleges… Ang sabi po sa’min if we do not follow they won’t let us march or worse, they won’t let us graduate.
[She insisted that we’re still male and we need to obey because that’s the standard for all state colleges. We were told that if we do not follow they won’t let us march or worse, they won’t let us graduate.]
On the part of the University, the school president claimed that the policy was one agreed to by all parties:
Sila ang nag-agree diyan, hindi ako. Ang sabi nila sa akin, na-explain na raw ‘yan sa graduating class. Alangan naman i-turn around ko ang napag-agreehan nila?
[They agreed on the policy, it wasn’t me. I was told it was already explained to the graduating class. I cannot overturn what they have already agreed upon.]
A happy development that Ivern relayed directly was that the policy was lifted the night before their graduation. Ivern told us on the day of her graduation:
Last night they called us at the last minute and they said we could graduate and they will still give our diplomas even if we wear a dress. With that we were so happy, but the catch was we cannot join the graduation march or processional, the lesbians who graduated on the First day of the services have successfully worn their barong tagalog and have marched, or maybe so they just weren’t clocked, but as for us (transwomen) everyone was watching us, but given thay will still allow us to graduate even if we wear our dresses if it is in line with the female dresscode.
As for me, even though they “allowed” us emphasis on the quote, I wore a lady barong during the march to show my respect to the admin, dahil hindi ko po ipapakita sakanila ang ipinakita nilang kagaspangan sa amin nung kami ay kanilang sinasabihan ng kung ano anong masasakit na salita. [I did not want to show them the same rudeness they showed us.] Gusto ko pong ipakita sa kanila na may puso, respeto at karespe respeto kaming mga miyembero ng LGBTQ Community [I wanted to show them that the LGBTQ Community has heart and respect], but after the March and after I have got my diploma I quickly changed into the traditional female dress as a sign that I still stand for what I believe in and as a sign that they can never hide our colors and then I joined the rest of my batchmates as they marched back to their seats, some transwomen wore their dresses during the whole service and some did the same as what i did. Sana next year wala ng maging problema at wala na sa amin ang makaranas pa ng naranasan namin. [Hopefully next year no one will have to go through what we did.] We’ve come a long way in terms of fighting for our rights but we still have a long way to go, I hope people will open their hearts and their minds and have compassion towards us.
Ivern even noted that as a show of respect she opened her arms and shook hands with her university’s administration when walking up on stage. She shares that she was inspired to always fight for what she believed in as long as she did not do any harm by her philosophy professor, Sir Gherold Benitez. Their chairperson, Ma’am Jazzel Manalo, was also instrumental by sticking to Ivern’s side.
Where do you stand on this issue?
Photos courtesy of Ivern Doroteo Arcache