NAGA CITY, CAMARINES SUR – Rain, not her real name, 23, works as a government employee. Raised with a cultural stereotype that only men and women are socially acceptable, she grew up confused about her real identity. At a Christmas party back in grade school, she opted to wear denim pants, spaghetti-strapped top under a black, long-sleeved checkered shirt, and a pair of sneakers. In high school, she intentionally missed her junior and senior promenade simply because she’s uncomfortable being dolled up and wearing high-heeled footwear. She appreciates beautiful women and instead of being attracted to the opposite sex, she envies what they are capable of doing.

“Ano ba talaga ako?”

“Normal ba ako?”

“Saan ba ako belong?”

“Okay lang ba kay God? Kasalanan ba na taliwas sa itinuro nya ang nararamdaman ko?”

Although she never experienced being bullied in school or in the workplace for being “different,” these questions have been tormenting Rain for many years. But after the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Basics in the Workplace and Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) Forum, Rain felt enlightened. She can now define herself based from her SOGIE: Female, Asexual, Agender and Androgenous.

Rain was among the 81 personnel of the Department of Agriculture Field Office V and its attached agencies and line bureaus including Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC), Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) and Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) who attended the forum on SOGIE Basics in the Workplace and VAWC held on November 28, 2018, this city.

An offshoot of the gender and development forum held in 2017, the activity aims to create awareness among employees about SOGIE and its concepts in relation to the workplace, discuss value gender differences, and internalize gender issues both at the professional level and in their personal lives. Likewise, it is the DA RFO V’s way of expressing support to the 18-day annual campaign to end VAW, which remains a public issue of national concern.

In her lecture on the topic, Kristine R. Busadre, Regional Gender and Development Officer at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) described SOGIE and identified the different treaties, conventions and other local and international laws discussing the rights of LGBTQIA++. She also debunked stereotypes based on SOGIE and clarified how these affect employees and the LGBTQIA+ community. Moreover, she challenged the participants to express their commitment to end abuse and discrimination based on SOGIE.

According to Busadre, sex refers to being male, female or intersexual. Orientation, on the other hand, answers the question “To whom am I attracted to? Who do I love?” and can vary from heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, asexual or pansexual. Gender identity answers the question: “Who am I?” which can be a man, woman, transgender, bigender or agender. The way in which a person projects his or her gender identity usually through appearance, fashion and behavior is called Expression which can be feminine, masculine or androgynous.

Meanwhile, SPO4 Liza Jane Cañares-Alteza educated the participants about Republic Act 9262 also known as the “Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004.” Signed into law on March 8, 2004, RA 9262 defines VAWC as any act or a series of acts committed by any person against a woman who is his wife/former wife, a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship or with whom he has a common child.

“VAWC includes but is not limited to physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence and economic abuse,” said SPO4 Alteza. She also explained how issuance of Protection Order can prevent further acts of VAWC and discussed the duties of barangay officials and law enforcers in ensuring its implementation.

The forum on SOGIE Basics in the Workplace and VAWC is also anchored on the Sustainable Development Goals on Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth and Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

“Lahat tayo may karapatan kaya igalang na lang natin ang isa’t isa. Challenge ko sa sarili ko na irespeto ko din ang iba kasi alam ko na nirerespeto din nila kung ano ako. Walang pagja-judge, basta ginagawa namin ng maayos ang trabaho namin,” Rain added. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-RAFIS V)