LGBTQIA+ students and groups oppose transwomen discrimination in EARIST

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This article is available in Pilipino

LGBTQIA+ students and groups at the Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST) demanded recognition of the right of transgender students to sport their long hair as part of their gender identity. They protested under the leadership of Bahaghari-EARIST at its campus in Santa Mesa, Manila on March 15 amid the ban on transwoman students from enrolling until they cut their hair.

“Education should be for everyone—regardless of students’ sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression,” according to JP Brillantes, a transwoman student-leader and Bahaghari-EARIST representative. As early as October 2023, students expressed opposition to such a policy.

EARIST’s ban on enrolling some students for being “trans” is against the right to education and is a clear form of gender discrimination, she said. In addition to being forced to cut their hair to conform to the EARIST policy, they are also not allowed to wear uniforms that match their gender.

“We LGBT people should be given space in public institutions like EARIST and demand the scrapping of outdated policies regarding uniforms and grooming. Long hair and female uniforms have never been an obstacle to our studies,” added Brillantes.

According to her, in fact, “LGBTQIA+ youth achieve their full potential when given the opportunity to express themselves.” Despite their long-standing appeal, the university did not respond immediately and even led to forcing transwomen students to cut their hair.

In the protest launched on campus, attendees burned a large paper symbolizing the EARIST Student Hand Book in protest of its anti-student provision that does not recognize transgender gender expression.

Various groups have also expressed support for the Bahaghari-Earist fight. “The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) strongly condemns the violation of students’ right to self-identity in EARIST and all other colleges and universities that bind students to ‘corporate standards’,” according to NUSP.

Amid the clamor of the groups, the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) was forced to call a meeting on March 15 with Bahaghari-Earist’s representative and university management.

It was agreed at this meeting that all students would be allowed to enroll no matter how long their hair was and what uniform they want to wear. Sections in the EARIST Handbook related to “grooming and uniform” have also been temporarily suspended while an inclusive policy is being developed.

In this regard, Bahaghari’s national office expressed its continuous campaign to ensure that the new policies to be developed in EARIST are inclusive. The group says it will continue to dialogue with CHED to formalize the mandate that all students in universities and campuses under the agency should be allowed to freely express themselves and their gender through grooming and uniform policies.

Bahaghari vowed not to stop as long as students in every corner of the Philippines suffer from discrimination due to their gender.

AB: LGBTQIA+ students and groups oppose transwomen discrimination in EARIST