Uniform views

LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - July 28, 2019 - 12:00am

Gender issues have been the hot topic in the capital lately, what with Pride Month coming and going. But the conversation isn't over yet, as other nuances are made the subject of discourse.

Take Taiwan for example. A high school just outside Taipei has just made the decision to drop gender-specific uniform requirements for their students. Before, male students in Banqiao Senior High School were required to wear trousers, while female students had to wear skirts. With this just-announced decision, however, it is now up to the student which uniform to pick.

Male students can choose to wear skirts, while female students can wear trousers. Or, they can pick whichever depending on their preference for the day, week, or month. The school said this move was made to boost the students' autonomy in their choice of uniforms, while respecting their rights.

So Taiwan seems to be leading the way, but news reports have it that Mexico City and Wales are also going the same route. What about in our fair coconut isles? Well, we seem to be having mixed results as yet, as demonstrated by different educational institutions in Tarlac and Naga.

Over in Tarlac State University, transgender student Ivern Doroteo Arcache complained that she and other transgender students were prohibited from wearing dresses for their graduation ceremony. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be allowed to march.

University President Myrna Mallari washed her hands of the decision, and basically blamed everybody around her for an agreement on attire that supposedly included the deans and the graduating class themselves. ABS-CBN news produced a memo from her office though, essentially prescribing the appropriate graduation attire for male and female graduates (including for females, the length of the dresses and the heels for the shoes - not over two inches, mind you!).

In Naga, on the other hand, accolades were given to Ateneo de Naga University President Roberto Rivera, S.J., for taking the opposite position. Graduating student Roman Giuseppe Bueno, a transwoman, was ecstatic because she had written him requesting permission to wear women's clothing for her graduation rites. As Bueno, a.k.a. Emma, explained, her gender identity is that of a transwoman, and wearing male clothes makes her feel like she is cross-dressing. Hence, the need to wear female clothes.

Rivera granted her request with a sweet personal note, which was a surprise considering Ateneo is a staunchly Catholic school, and Naga City isn't even in the swinging capital of Manila, but located way south of it.

Of course, this wasn't exactly a school policy --a student had to write for permission, and that permission was specific to her. It doesn't mean the university can't change its mind later on, especially if less progressive minds or the powers-that-be have their way. But this was an excellent start to getting gender viewpoints considered by the rest of the community.

I remember UP law school in Diliman, where we didn't exactly have a dress code, although various deans would have their own take on the matter. A blockmate of mine and myself were adamant in wearing shorts in the non-airconditioned classrooms, and that became a sore point among the faculty and the administration

I let it be known that if shorts were an issue, then I would then don the not-exactly prescribed but apparently more desirable skirt (which other students in the sprawling ultra-liberal university, especially from the Fine Arts and Theater courses, were already sporting). That loose threat somehow got circulated in the very small Malcolm Hall, and ended the "conversation". We were left to wear shorts in peace for the next four years.

We haven't exactly progressed very far, have we? Let's see where Taiwan, Mexico, and Wales will lead us though.

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