'Dress my gender': Trans gets priest's support to wear girl clothes to graduation

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 22 2019 05:23 PM | Updated as of Mar 22 2019 06:52 PM

Emma Bueno, a trans woman student from Ateneo de Naga University, was allowed by her university’s president to dress as a woman for her Baccalaureate Mass and graduation after she was prohibited by a professor. Photo courtesy of Emma Bueno

MANILA – When Emma Bueno, a trans woman student from Ateneo de Naga University, was told by a professor that she would not be allowed to wear female clothes for her Baccalaureate Mass and graduation, she thought of bringing the matter to their university president.

“One of the graduation committee professors told me that crossdressing is not allowed during the Baccalaureate Mass and Graduation Ceremony in spite of the fact that I have been wearing the clothes that reflects my gender identity as a Transgender Woman,” Bueno wrote in a Mar. 19 letter addressed to Fr. Roberto Exequiel Rivera, S.J.

"I would like to appeal to your good office to allow me to dress as a woman... as I recognize myself as one. Personally, wearing clothes for male is the act that would me feel like I am crossdressing," she added.

Rivera approved Bueno’s request, even reassuring her by writing over her letter: “Pls. present this letter if your clothing is questioned. Congratulations!”

Ateneo de Naga University President Fr. Roberto Exequiel Rivera reassures Emma Bueno that she is allowed to wear female clothes for her Baccalaureate Mass and graduation. Photo courtesy of Emma Bueno

Bueno's story has since gone viral on Twitter, garnering nearly 20,000 likes and 2,500 retweets.

Netizens also praised Rivera, whom Bueno referred to in her post as “Father President,” for being “open-minded.”

In an interview with ABS-CBN News on Friday, shortly after her Baccalaureate Mass, Bueno said she did not expect to get a positive response from Rivera.

“His decision on approving me wearing my preferred clothes made me emotional. He even congratulated me,” she said.

Bueno said she raised the issue to Rivera, believing his decision as university president would have finality.

“I think that writing to our Father President is the right thing to do for the reason that if he approves it, which he did, no one can question my clothing,” she said.

The 21-year-old Bueno, born Roman Giuseppe, shared that she had always known she was a transgender since she was young.

She added that she did not have a complicated “coming out” phase as her parents were aware of her identity.

“Because of my gesture and behavior, I don't behave manly,” she said.

Bueno said she is overwhelmed by her story going viral.

“I've been receiving a lot of affirmations and telling me I was so courageous,” she said.

To other trans people facing discrimination, Bueno said: "I know how it feels like being oppressed for being different."

"They should continuously strive for equal rights and tackle repressive policies head on. Always remember that you are valid."