Sex change woes: Transgender Fil-Am seeks PH citizenship as female

By Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Aug 11 2015 12:13 PM | Updated as of Aug 11 2015 08:13 PM

NEW YORK – Just like many Filipino Americans, transgender woman Morena Cipriano is planning to spend her retirement in the Philippines when that time comes.

"Sooner or later, balak ko mag-retire sa Philippines. Tapos bumili rin ng properties or mag-invest. That’s the reason why I want to have a dual passport," Cipriano said.

The Filipina housekeeper in New York was assigned male at birth but now identifies as female.

Cipriano came to the US in 2003 and became naturalized US Citizen in 2007.

"My mom petitioned me as a boy, so I have to come here as a boy. When I was here, it was really hard for me. It was very struggling," she said.

Four years later, she legally changed her name and gender to female, as reflected on her current US passport and New York driver’s license.

Last Friday, she attempted to apply for dual citizenship and a Philippine passport at the New York Philippine Consulate in Manhattan.

"Sabi nila this is the first time they encounter this kind of situation. But now I brought all my documents. Let’s see what they can do with my application. But I'm not taking no as an answer," Cipriano said.

But Deputy Consul General Kira Azucena said based on existing Philippine laws, Cipriano will be granted dual citizenship and a Philippine passport, but these documents can only carry her male name and male gender as shown on her birth certificate.

But according to Cipriano, to be issued a Philippine passport that would reflect her former male name and male gender is not only hurtful, it’s also inconvenient.

"When they look at my documents that I am a male and I look like a female there's discrimination. But ever since I changed my name and my gender, I did not experience that," she said.

Azucena said that there is one acceptable fix that may help in Cipriano's case: The inclusion of both names in the documents they will issue.

"In Morena’s case, her identification certificate will reflect both the original name as reflected in the Philippine birth certificate and the name as reflected in the US passport, pero merong ‘also known as’," Azucena said.

Azucena added that Cipriano can also file a petition in a Philippine court for the Philippine government to finally recognize her current US legal name.

But even with a court order, her birth-assigned gender will remain as male because existing Philippine laws do not legally recognize gender identity change at this time.

Cipriano said this temporary fix will do for now. But she vows to challenge the Philippine government to find a permanent fix to the issue.

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