Below is the official position written by Chairwoman Ms Naomi Fontanos of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) on House Bill No. 4530 and Senate Bill 3113 also known as "An act further authorizing the city of municipal civil registrar or the consul general to correct clerical or typographical errors in the date of birth or sex or a person appearing in the civil register without need of a judicial order amending for this purpose the pertinent provisions of Republic Act No. 9048"
As the day of hearts fast approaches, we, the members of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP)*, are heartbroken that members of Congress (REPRESENTATIVES GUNIGUNDO, ROMUALDO, MIRAFLORES, ALVAREZ (M.), ESPINA, ARNAIZ, RODRIGUEZ (R.), RODRIGUEZ (M.), TUPAS, CASIÑO AND RELAMPAGOS) and the Senate (SENATORS TRILLANES AND ESCUDERO) are seeking to amend Republic Act (RA) 9048 or the Clerical Error Law of 2001 that would effectively illegalize the lives and identities of transgender/transsexual Filipinos including those who are intersex.
Section 5 of HB 4530 and SB 3113 reads "NO PETITION FOR CORRECTION OF ERRONEOUS ENTRY CONCERNING THE DATE OF BIRTH OR THE SEX OF A PERSON SHALL BE ENTERTAINED EXCEPT IF THE PETITION IS ACCOMPANIED BY EARLIEST SCHOOL RECORD OR EARLIEST CIVIL DOCUMENTS SUCH AS, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, MEDICAL RECORDS, BAPTISMAL CERTIFICATE AND OTHER DOCUMENTS ISSUED BY RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES; NOR SHALL ANY ENTRY INVOLVING CHANGE OF GENDER CORRECTED EXCEPT IF THE PETITION IS ACCOMPANIED BY A CERTIFICATION ISSUED BY AN ACCREDITED GOVERNMENT PHYSICIAN ATTESTING TO THE FACT THAT THE PETITIONER HAS NOT UNDERGONE SEX CHANGE OR SEX TRANSPLANT.(emphasis ours)"
While we note that our lawmakers recognize the reality of surgical sex change, or more correctly sex reassignment surgery (SRS), we are dismayed that they seem to be in denial of the very idea behind this medical procedure that has been available since the 1920's:
a) that sex does and can be changed ;
b) that there exist people in society who prefer a gender or have a gender identity/expression other than the one recorded in their birth certificates, now known under the modern terms transgender/transsexual (trans for short) or intersex;
c) and that recognizing trans and intersex people under the law means respecting and affirming the gender they choose or prefer.
In fact, many nations across the globe have taken steps to recognize their trans and intersex citizens' right to a chosen gender identity such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Nepal, Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, South Africa, some jurisdictions in the United States and other countries based on evidence that not having documents that reflect their gender identity/expression make them vulnerable to prejudice and discrimination. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in a statement in September 2011, has herself underscored the importance of protecting the right to legal sex change and called on all states of the world "to review their own laws, policies and practices to ensure that discrimination against transgender and intersex individuals is addressed in a systematic and effective way."
Clearly, the above-mentioned legislative initiatives from both chambers of the Philippine House of Representatives are a step in the wrong direction. Moreover, HB 4530 and SB 3113 perpetuate anti-transgender or transphobic attitudes and justify the marginalization of trans and intersex people in Philippine society. Their subscription to a medical view of transsexualism/intersexuality also contributes to the continued pathologization of a minority who, in their daily lives, have to confront violence, abuse, torture, and cruel and inhumane treatment based on their gender identity or gender expression.
We, the members of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), therefore urge members of Congress and the Senate to recognize and accept the reality of sex and gender diversity and recall HB 4530 and SB 3113. Instead, we ask them to amend RA 9048 in a way that would lead to a better quality of life for trans and intersex Filipinos by allowing us to change our first name and sex in the birth certificate in simple and easy steps. As well, we urge Congress and the Senate, to immediately pass legislation recognizing trans and intersex Filipino citizens in our chosen gender with no requirement for surgical modification of the body.
In closing, we note with irony that SB 3113 was filed in the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Justice for and the protection of the human rights of trans and intersex Filipinos will be best served if the government heeds the call to end violence, criminal sanctions and related human rights violations based on gender identity or expression in the Philippines. Justice for and the protection of the human rights of trans and intersex Filipinos will only truly begin by recognizing us as people under the law as the gender we say we are. Justice for and the protection of the human rights of trans and intersex Filipinos will only prevail if the government accepts that its right to identify its citizens by gender stops at the right of those citizens to determine their own gender identity. Our gender identity is our human right. Help us protect it.
Written for STRAP by Chairwoman Ms Naomi Fontanos
* The Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) is the pioneer support group and human rights advocacy organization of transpinays (transgender/transsexual Filipinas). We seek to improve the public understanding of transsexualism, campaign for the right to define one's gender identity and expression and work towards building a supportive community amongst transgender/transsexual Filipina girls and women and a society free from transphobia and discrimination.
Ms Naomi Fontanos