Sure. As Marrian Pio Roda Ching asserts in an Inquirer article, Jeffrey Laude’s “right” to be addressed by the alias “Jennifer” is all about his “right to identity and to self-determination” as stipulated in a certain body of work called the “Yogyakarta Principles” where Article 3 supposedly stipulates, that these assertions of “identity” constitute every human being’s claim to a life of “dignity and freedom”.
And, sure, the New York Times and the Associated Press, as Ching points out, have both signed up to a so-called “style guide” that, get this, “addresses gender inaccuracy and homophobia in the news.” How exactly choosing to address Jennifer by his real name may be construed as “homophobia” is anyone’s guess. Involving one’s self in an argument over what name to use when addressing a transgender and concluding that anyone who begs to differ to the popular view is a potential homophobe is quite a leap of logic. That the media industry which, one may need to be reminded, consists of for-profit enterprises that need to pander to their readership as a matter of survival, chooses to address transgenders by their preferred name does not constitute a rule that necessarily applies to all.
Fortunately, there is one thing Philippine Law does right, and that is keep layers of political correctness from coating and fouling up otherwise simple principles. In an example of the upholding of its spirit, the Philippine Court of Appeals in a landmark 2006 case involving an appeal by transgender Rommel Jacinto Silverio that he be legally recognised as female ruled that “While petitioner may have succeeded in altering his body and appearance through the intervention of modern surgery, no law authorizes the change of entry as to sex in the civil registry for that reason. Thus, there is no legal basis for his petition for the correction or change of the entries in his birth certificate.”
As such the state regards the issue final. Jeffrey Laude is a male Filipino and will be regarded as such in this case. This is evident in the way Foreign Secretary spokesman Charles Jose representing the Philippine government worded his statement to the public the other day.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs, together with the office of the city prosecutor of Olongapo City, today served the subpoena and complaint against Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton for the murder of Jeffrey Laude, also known as ‘Jennifer’,” Jose said in a statement.
Indeed, that Laude is a man is particularly relevant in this case when one considers the possibility that he had deliberately misled the defendant into believing that he was in the company of a female person — something that will certainly weigh heavily come the time that the court will have to evaluate the gravity or form of the homicide committed (if, in fact, Laude’s death is ruled as such). So, ensuring that there is no confusing the real gender of Laude to satisfy the preferences of people who see their thinking as “progressive” is important in this matter.
The issue of how society regards Laude is a social issue and so the points Ching raises around the respect and dignity Laude is entitled to should be regarded in a social context. Social issues have their place in Twitter debates and personal blogs, not in courtrooms and police reports. When investigating a homicide, the legal context takes precedence. People’s lives are at stake here — the future of a young, barely legal US Marine, and the justice that the 26-year-old victim and his dependent family are entitled to. When such truly important things are at stake, we are best served by principles that are underpinned by science and facts rather than adolescent emotional responses and nebulous personal preferences.
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