Transgender students barred from wearing dresses in Tarlac university grad rites

Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 11 2019 04:04 PM | Updated as of Jun 12 2019 11:25 AM

Ivern Doroteo Arcache, a student from Tarlac State University, smiles in this graduation portrait. Arache said transgender students like her were barred from wearing outfits that reflected their sexual orientation at their upcoming graduation. Contributed photo

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - School officials have barred at least 6 transgender women from wearing dresses in their upcoming graduation rites at the Tarlac State University (TSU), one of the affected students has alleged.

Ivern Doroteo Arcache, a graduating communication student from TSU's College of Arts and Sciences, on Tuesday lamented this alleged decision from the dean and university president, which comes as the LGBT community marked Pride Month.

"Mismong president ng school po namin ang nagbabawal kasi daw po may standard na sinusunod for all state universities. Eh kung may sinusunod po bakit in other state Us eh allowed po like PSU (Pangasinan State University)," Arcache, grand winner of the Queen of the Philippines 2019, told ABS-CBN News.

(The school president disallowed this because there is supposedly a standard for all state universities. But if there is such a rule, why do other state Us allow this, like PSU?)

Transgender students Tam Manarang, EJ Ferrer, Leam Dallo and JP Panag were among those who were banned from wearing outfits that reflected their sexual orientation at their graduation. Contributed photos

Two graduating transmen and lesbian students, she said, were also barred from wearing the traditional Filipino male dress shirt Barong Tagalog.

Arcache said her college's dean announced the dress code during a meeting about the graduation, prompting her and her peers to question the decision before the university's Office of the President.

"I felt really discriminated, I even said na mayroon pong mga operada na sa'min, then she (university president) still said no dahil wala raw po kami respeto sa tradisyon at kultura," said the student.

(I even said there are some of us who have already undergone surgeries, then she still said no because we supposedly have no respect for tradition and culture.)

"Ini-insist niya na lalaki pa rin kami at kailangan namin sumunod kasi 'yun daw po ang standard na sinusunod for all state colleges... Ang sabi po sa'min if we do not follow they won't let us march or worse, they won't let us graduate," she added.

(She insisted that we're still male and we need to obey because that's the standard for all state colleges. We were told that if we do not follow they won't let us march or worse, they won't let us graduate.)

Some of her transgender classmates, she said, did not protest out of fear that they would not be able to graduate.

"It's our last day na in the university, bakit hindi pa kami pagbigyan? Once in a lifetime event 'yun na dapat nilu-look forward ng bawat estudyante kasi that's the most important day. Pero bakit sa 'kin parang ayaw ko na umattend because of the situation?" she said.

(It's our last day in the university, why can't our wish be granted? It's a once in a lifetime event that all students look forward to because that's the most important day for them. In my case, why is it that I almost don't want to attend the graduation anymore because of the situation?)

TSU DEFENSE

In a statement posted by the TSU student publication The Work, university President Myrna Mallari said that the decision to not allow transgender students to wear dresses or barongs was agreed upon by the graduating class, the deans, and the Vice President for Academic Affairs.

"Sila ang nag-agree diyan, hindi ako. Ang sabi nila sa akin, na-explain na raw 'yan sa graduating class. Alangan naman i-turn around ko ang napag-agreehan nila?" Mallari said in a statement.

(They agreed on the policy, it wasn't me. I was told it was already explained to the graduating class. I cannot overturn what they have already agreed upon.)

However, Arcache refuted it and said the graduating class never agreed to the prescribed graduation attire."

Female students are required to wear ankle length dresses while male students should wear cream colored barong with black pants, according to a memorandum from the university's Office of the President obtained by ABS-CBN News.

The document did not indicate a dress code for transgender students.

"Graduating students who are not in the prescribed graduation attire will not be included in the processional of graduates," the memo read.

The graduation rites will be held from June 14-19, depending on the college.

Transgender students from other state and private universities were allowed in previous instances to dress up for their graduation based on their gender identification and expression.