SOGIESC groups: Equality in UP needs concrete action

The push for a more inclusive university environment needs concerted efforts from all UP sectors, affirmed advocates for the rights of people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristics (SOGIESC).

In a roundtable discussion Oct. 27, SOGIESC student formations and university offices called for concrete policies to address the persisting grievances of students and employees.

Discrimination, then and now

UP Diliman Gender Office (UPDGO) Coordinator Kristel Gomez-Magdaraog said their study shows that SOGIESC-based discrimination in UP Diliman (UPD) has risen since the start of the pandemic.

Students comprised 76% of the 70 victim-survivors who participated in the study. 

“May pagtaas ng kaso [ng discrimination] ngayong panahon ng pandemic,” Gomez-Magdaraog said. “The 70 cases that we were able to document, very few pa lang ‘yan.”

Among the forms of discrimination documented in the study are discriminatory or stigmatizing remarks. The UPDGO tallied 12 cases of discriminatory remarks as of October, which already surpassed the 11 cases recorded in the whole of 2019. 

Other cited categories of discrimination are sexual threats and abuse, deadnaming and misgendering, abuse, voyeurism and denial of goods and services.

Deadnaming refers to the use of a person’s unused birth name. Misgendering is incorrectly addressing someone by their pronouns and honorifics.

UPD University Student Council Councilor Latrell Felix said misgendering is a recurring issue in the online setup, especially in correspondences such as emails.

“Marami pa rin ang hindi na-acknowledge or nagiging sensitive of people kung ano ang gusto nilang matawag sa kanilang sarili,” she said.

UP Lipad, a SOGIESC rights organization from UP Visayas, pointed out how movement restrictions have limited the coming out experiences of some students in UP Visayas.

In this setup, [students] don’t really have a choice kung accepting ba yung family or not, and that is something na they have to deal with pa and considered it as an issue sa kani-kanilang mga bahay,” said UP Lipad Chairperson Arvin Lauresta.

READ: Coming out in isolation

The remainder of the UPDGO’s respondents are employees, community residents and alumni. 

Responding to their low participation in the study, Gomez-Magdaraog raised the need to reach out to other members of the UP community.

Denial of goods and services is another form of SOGIESC-based discrimination cited in the study. Gomez-Magdaraog said an example of this is the denial of access to restrooms.

Mimi Rodriguez, Gender Committee Secretary of the UP Mindanao Multi-purpose Cooperative, said that there have been such incidents on their campus.

“In my previous experience, hindi naman siya direct na sinabi sa akin, pero may mga tao talaga na hindi comfortable when I am using a female [comfort room],” they said.

Lauresta hopes that once schools begin to open, advocates can open discussions on SOGIESC equality with professors, students and members of the UP community.

Schoolwide movement

The panelists agreed that beyond guidelines and suggestions, concrete action is necessary for lasting reforms on campus.

Mahihirapan pa kung wala talaga tayong mahahawakan na legal basis,” said Rodriguez, underscoring the need to strengthen the implementation of UP’s gender laws.

Gomez-Magdaraog said that existing Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) Guidelines must be fully incorporated into campus laws and account for all members of the community.

The first of any campus in the UP system, UP Diliman released guidelines last year affirming the pronouns, names and titles of its TGNC students.

READ: UP Diliman releases guidelines to recognize transgender and gender non-conforming sutdents

“May iba’t ibang pangangailangan tayo. We need to ensure that the SOGIESC policies should be integrated doon sa mga contexts na iyon,” Gomez-Magdaraog said.

UP Los Baños Anti-Sexual Harassment (ASH) office coordinator Emilia Lastica-Ternura recommended the expansion of the coverage of the current UP ASH Code.

Sometimes, it’s very hard to prove na [ang diskriminasyon ay] sexual harassment, kasi medyo borderline siya. So I think, unahin natin yung polisiya tungkol sa SOGIESC,” Lastica-Ternura said. “Pwede na natin ngayon ikabit yung discrimination, so hindi na siya magiging ASH Code lang.

The UP GDO said that their study will be used as a guide in revising the ASH Code and the UP Gender Guidelines. Gomez-Magdaraog highlighted the need to expand moves for SOGIESC equality to the whole UP system.

Doon tayo mag-focus sa mga kailangan nating gawin. Move forward tayo, mas maraming boses, solidarity, collective action. Emphasize yung intersectionality – easier said than done, but we can do it,” she added.