He, She, They: UP Diliman to Follow Students' Gender Identity in Records

A step towards inclusivity.
Photo/s: Ara Eugenio

The University of the Philippines Diliman said Monday it would soon let students use their preferred names, pronouns, and titles in official campus databases, showing the way for peer schools towards being all-gender affirming.

The Diliman campus told faculty and staff  in a memo that it will revise its current academic information systems to become transgender-affirmative.

They will recognize usernames and email addresses of both faculty and students based on their "lived names", UP Vice Chancellor Theresa Payongayong said, noting a system-wide university anti-discrimination code is also in the pipeline. 

In the meantime, guidelines were released on how teaching staff can affirm the gender identities of transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) students with as much sensitivity as possible, in part of the university's committment to maintaining an "enabling, gender-fair, safe and healthy learning and working environment". 

Included in the document is a sample prompt on how professors can properly ask students what their lived names, preferred pronouns, and titles are ideally at the start of the semester, so that they will be addressed by them inside the classroom.

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Whether that may entail a switch to "he" or "she", or to the gender-neutral ones such as "they" or "ze" in addressing students, professors are urged to affirm their student's gender identity for classrooms to become a more inclusive and safe space for everyone. 


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Why this matters

Affirming gender identities of individuals matter, especially in an educational setting, as it is proven to have long-term and detrimental effects on the mental health and academic performance of TGNC students, the guidelines produced by the UP Center for Women's and Gender Studies said. 

A "lived name" refers to a name that is different from a transgender and gender-nonconforming person's legal name (also known as a "dead name") which the person usually chooses to retire if it no longer affirms their gender identity. 

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The proper reference using he/she/they matters, because it’s one way of characterizing people in a way that they identify to; it makes them feel seen.

However, in schools where databases heavily depend on official documents, it is common for TGNC people to have to deal with having to be addressed by their dead name unless they make the extra effort of letting their professors know ahead of time. 

But usually "others feel anxious or weighed down by having to do so; therefore, they take the risk of being deadnamed or misgendered throughout the semester, or at least until they decide to inform their professor", UP CWGS said. 

These acts of deadnaming and misgendering are "acts of discimination and violence against TGNC people, specifically, and LGBTQI+ people, more generally" it said. 

While oftentimes misgendering is done unintentionally, there are also those who purposely misgender people, adding up to the “microaggressions” that LGBTQ people face in a society that is still largely unaccepting or uneducated.

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"Transgender and gender non-conforming students of the University of the Philippines Diliman have the right to express their gender identity and/or expression, without fear of discrimination," UP CWGS said. 

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