Deadnaming. Forced haircuts. Forced use of school uniforms and public restrooms that don’t align with your gender identity. These are just some of the discriminatory acts that trans and gender-creative students and teachers continue to face in schools.
With the return of face-to-face classes, actress and advocate Mela Habijan took it upon herself to appeal to the Department of Education (DepEd) that they ensure the implementation of its policy against gender-based violence and discrimination in schools. ICYDK, school heads, it’s against DepEd policy to deny LGBTQIA+ students to attend as themselves.
Habijan shared a copy of her letter addressed to Vice President and DepEd Secretary Sara Duterte-Carpio on Aug. 15. She said in her letter that a number of students reached out to her after they were told by their respective school heads that they won’t be allowed to come to school in the gender they identify as.
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Habijan wrote, “Nakatatanggap tayo ng mga mensahe mula sa trans and nonbinary students mula sa iba’t ibang rehiyon. Takot at nanghihingi sila ng tulong dahil nais nilang pumasok sa paaralan sa expression na naaayon sa kanilang gender identity—sa paraang hindi masisikil ang pagpapahayag nila ng kanilang pagiging trans at nonbinary.”
Habijan recounted in her letter that DepEd NCR and DepEd Region IV-A both reiterated the department’s Gender-Responsive Basic Education Policy (DepEd Order 32, s. 2017) through a memorandum released back in June. The memos came after Habijan campaigned for several trans students who initially weren’t allowed to come in dresses and were required to cut their hair in order to attend their graduation ceremonies in June.
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DepEd NCR’s memo, in particular, reiterated how schools are required to “respect the gender expression of students” and “allow students to attend school-initiated activities, such as end-of-school-year rites [while] wearing clothes which are aligned with their gender identity, without restricting students’ gender expression.”
To prevent the memos from being one-offs, DepEd and the Commission on Higher Education, which Habijan is also planning on appealing to, have work to do. “Sadly, some of our educator friends are still unaware of this policy. With this, I am taking my chances once again to appeal to you in reiterating and ensuring the implementation and preservation of DepEd Order 32, s. 2017 in all regions of the Philippines,” Habijan wrote VP Duterte-Carpio.
Habijan summed the issue up pretty nicely when she said that education is a human right and should therefore be inclusive to all. We’re keeping an eye on you, school administrators. Don’t be the reason why LGBTQIA+ students and staff are barred from or too anxious to go to school.
Art by Ella Lambio
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