Transgender Day of Visibility celebrates the existence of trans people and communities. As the world progresses towards a more trans-inclusive environment, a challenge arises as Benilde’s work for inclusivity aches to grow stronger.
There’s a lot more to do when it comes to the status of trans rights in the country. While trans Filipinos eagerly await the existence of any sort of positive recognition from the government, slowly and surely different organizations and institutions create safe spaces of their own.
In honor of Transgender Day of Visibility, The Benildean reached out to two trans students and interviewed them about their experiences being trans in the Benildean community. Benilde administrators were also asked about the progress and plans for a safer future for trans members.
In an interview with The Benildean, Vice President for Lasallian Mission and Student Life and Gender and Development Focal Person Ms. Nicky Templo-Perez shared the brief history of Benildean inclusivity with its trans community members. She commented on how Benilde has been accepting of its trans members, citing the existence of Benildean Hive (BHive), the first accredited LGBTQIA+ organization in De La Salle Philippines.
While it’s easy to claim Benilde is a safe space for trans students, ID 118 Digital Filmmaking student Cas Aseoche gladly shared his appreciation for the College, “Benilde, so far, is the only place I've ever felt genuinely comfortable in using the bathroom of the gender I identify with.”
Aseoche expressed appreciation for his fellow students’ open mindedness; he was happy that some even shared their own personal identities with him too. However, he added that he does receive some microaggressions from some professors—as well as experienced some instances he felt were worse than others.
Interestingly enough though, ID 120 Multimedia Arts student Miggy Evangelista extended the open-minded impression to all members of the community. They shared how even the older professors respected their identity as a non-binary person.
And thankfully with recognition
Even Ms. Templo-Perez recognized the possible lapses of this safe space at times stating, “We recognize the need to hold consultations with the community and determine how we can be more inclusive and how we can make our trans students and associates feel safe in our community.”
“We are a developing community in relation to having a safe space for persons of different SOGIE,” Mr. Levi Viloria Albania said. He continued, “We are not perfect, but we believe we have pockets of good practices that we wish to promote and nurture,” calling back to the different efforts the Benildean community has taken to ensure trans inclusivity and mitigation of gender-related issues.
Then finally, the reflection
There are many things in Benilde that remind us of the College’s call for inclusivity, not just in education, but also among its campuses. Evangelista focused on the existence of gender-neutral bathrooms around the buildings and wished for there to not only be more, but to be more accessible. “My only issue is how the all-gender bathroom seems to be always closed or locked whenever I try to enter. It’s as if it’s being used as a storage room.”
Mr. Albania recounted the many efforts done further than just gender-neutral bathrooms as well. From recognizing BHive for their efforts, citing the social media policy against all forms of discrimination and bullying, and to the creation of The Task Force Safe Schools (TFSS) and the recently held orientation on safe spaces with barangay leaders and students on March 22. He also recognized Ms. Templo-Perez was a big part of the initiative for trans inclusivity.
For the future, Ms. Templo-Perez shared her plan of action, “As Benilde’s Gender and Development Focal Person, I will be convening a group that will flesh out how we can be more inclusive to all genders and not just our trans Benildeans,” something to push the progress even further within the community.
With all that said and done, the future of trans inclusivity, and inclusivity in general, within the Benildean community continues to shine brighter.
While Benilde stands as one of the more inclusive schools, it only benefits to look for things to improve on and continue from there.