Turning the "M" upside down

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Question

I know someone in the Philippines who has shown me their birth certificate and claims it lists her wrongly as a male. She has told me that because of this mistake, she cannot find a job and is currently working as a prostitute. I asked her if she is transgendered and she said that no, she is a woman.

She claims that to alter the birth certificate to show her sex correctly is an expensive process, even though it was a simple mistake. An attorney would need to be involved, she claims. I'm willing to help her out with this, but I'm wondering if I'm being led up the garden path—that her story is all just nonsense. Surely if a simple mistake had being made with regard to the sex status on the birth certificate, it should be a relatively simple and inexpensive exercise to correct in the Philippines?

Andy

Answer

While there is a law in the Philippines that allows for corrections on birth records to be made where there are clerical or typographical errors, it explicitly forbids any change in nationality, age or sex. One question: is the name on your friend's birth certificate also male? This might give you a better sense of whether it was a small error or if your friend is trans and is reluctant to tell you.

If your friend is transgendered, unfortunately there is no chance that she can have the sex on her birth certificate changed. As Sass Rogando Sasot, who is a core member of STRAP, the Society for Transsexual Women of the Philippines, writes me, "As of the moment, because of the October 2007 decision of the Supreme Court of the Philippines [in the case of Dr. Mely Silverio] transsexual people cannot change the gender on their birth certificate." Sasot does cite a Supreme Court case from last year where an intersex person had their legal status changed from female to male, though. If you wish to read more about these cases, go to www.pinaytg.wordpress.com and look for the entries listed under "What's In a Supreme Court Decision?"

Regardless, The Rainbow Rights Project (www.rainbowrightsproject.multiply.com) can offer her legal advice and she can also consult STRAP (see www.tsphilippines.com). Providing her with experienced and local support seems the best solution—for both of you.