Ateneo de Naga University revises uniform policy for trans students

Photograph courtesy of FB RJ’s Film and Photography Ateneo de Naga University students Patricia Velasco and Ivana Jess Ledesma in their uniforms.

The Ateneo de Naga University is now allowing students to wear uniforms that align to the gender they identify with. This development has been celebrated by transgender students and their supporters.

The Institutional Formation Council’s Office of Mission and Identity of the Catholic Jesuit-run university in Naga City in the Bicol Region has issued “Policy Statement and Guidelines in Granting Permission to College Students to Dress According to One’s Identified Gender,” which was approved by the university president, Father Roberto E.N. Rivera, SJ, on 6 January.

“In the spirit of Cura Personalis, one of the core values of the Ateneo de Naga University, and guided by our shared mission to concretize God’s care for everyone, especially in our care and recognition of the presence of members of the LGBT group in the ADNU college community, the University shall grant permission to college students to dress according to one’s identified gender,” the policy states.

It further says: “This direction to grant permission to college students to dress according to one’s identified gender affirms our belief that part of the growth in the formative years of the students in higher education is the search for one’s identity and personality and, at the same, learning to recognize and respect certain norms, values, and culture…”
The document says that the formative value of the policy “helps the college students to learn that human dignity is not tied to what one wears or one’s attire, but rather to one’s being, as creatures of God” and the permission to dress according to one’s identified gender “fosters inclusivity for our community members and respects and recognizes the unique and different developmental stages of our students and we welcome them as they are, in their stage, without compromising the core values and identity of ADNU as an educational institution that is Jesuit and Catholic.”

In this revised uniform policy, students may apply for permission to wear their preferred uniform and it may be granted only to transgender students and to those whose gender identity includes clothing. The university prohibits “casual or occasional cross-dressing,” which they define as “unsanctioned wearing specific uniform design and non-uniform attire of the opposite sex for fashion, experimentation, or other reasons unrelated to transgender transitioning and gender identity and expression.”

The granting of the permission, though, requires the knowledge and consent of parents or authorized guardians.

Additionally, the revised policy prohibits discrimination and sexual harassment against students permitted to dress according to their gender identification, including refusing a student to attend a class or a school-sanctioned activity, or to use a school facility because of their gender expression; rejection of a student’s application for membership in an organization due to their gender expression; catcalling and sexist remarks and slurs; and “persistent uninvited comments or gestures on a person’s attire.”

In a memorandum, Fr. Rivera wrote that the revised policy coincides with the 70th anniversary of coeducation in Ateneo, commemorating the time when Ateneo de Naga College began accepting female students in 1953.

“In our transitional plans, our goal of fostering a ‘safe, inclusive and caring university community’ and the corresponding flagship project of establishing a ‘gender and development hub’ are all aspirations consistent with the seminal inspiration for co-education. Its 70th anniversary compels us to pursue with greater purpose the ideals of gender equality and respect for all gender affiliations,” he said.

The university official explained that “[a]lthough delayed and impeded by the pandemic, the policy revisions were made after extensive consultation among various sectors of the University community.”

“May this revised college uniform policy be a small but significant step in our lifelong journey towards fostering a truly safe, inclusive, and caring university community,” he added.
In March 2019, Fr. Rivera granted the request of a trans woman student, Roman Giuseppe “Emma” Bueno, to wear women’s attire for their baccalaureate Mass and graduation rites, which earned praise from many people.

The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines expressed their approval of the uniform policy on its 9 March Facebook post, which cited a part of Principle 3 of the Yogyakarta Principles: “Each person’s self-defined sexual orientation and gender identity is integral to their personality and is one of the most basic aspects of self-determination, dignity, and freedom.”

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