Fil-Am trangender woman, PH consulate find temporary fix to ID troubles

NEW YORK – Just like many Filipino Americans, transgender woman Morena Cipriano is planning to spend her retirement in the Philippines when that times comes.

Cipriano said, “Sooner or later balak ko mag-retire sa Philippines. Tapos bumili rin ng properties or mag-invest. That’s the reason why I want to have a dual passport.”

This Filipina housekeeper in New York was assigned male at birth but now identifies as female.

Morena came to the US in 2003 and became naturalized US Citizen in 2007.

“My mom petitioned me as a boy, so I have to come here as a boy. When I was here, it was really hard for me. It was very struggling,” she said.

Four years later, she legally changed her name and gender to female, as reflected on her current US passport and New York driver’s license.

Last Friday, she attempted to apply for dual citizenship and a Philippine passport at the New York Philippine Consulate in Manhattan.

“Sabi nila this is the first time they will encounter this kind of situation. Yun ang sabi nila sa akin. But now I brought all my documents,” Cipriano said. “Let’s see what they can do with my application. But I’m not taking no as an answer.”

But Deputy Consul General Kira Azucena says based on existing Philippine laws, Morena will be granted dual citizenship and a Philippine passport, but these documents can only carry her male name and male gender as shown on her birth certificate.

“Ibig sabihin, in her case, if her birth certificate issued in the Philippines still reflects the original name, then that’s what we need to reflect also in the identification certificate, the oath of allegiance that the consulate will issue,” Azucena said.

But according to Morena, to be issued a Philippine passport that would reflect her former male name and male gender is not only hurtful, it’s also inconvenient.

“When they look at my documents that I am a male and I look like a female, there’s a discrimination,” Cipriano said. “But ever since I changed my name and my gender, I did not experience that.”

Azucena says, though, there is one acceptable fix that may help in Morena’s case – the inclusion of both names in the documents they will issue.

“In Morena’s case, her identification certificate will reflect both the original name as reflected in the Philippine birth certificate and the name as reflected in the US passport, pero merong ‘also known as’ of ‘aka’,” Azucena said.

Azucena says, Morena can also file a petition in a Philippine court for the Philippine government to finally recognize her current US legal name.

But even with a court order, her birth-assigned gender will remain as male because existing Philippine laws do not legally recognize gender identity change at this time.

Morena says this temporary fix will do for now. But she vows to challenge the Philippine government to find a permanent fix to this issue.

You may contact Don Tagala at don_tagala@abs-cbn.com for more information.

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  • Atty Chris Reyes Navarro
    11 August 2015 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    I saw your report on the transgender woman attempting to obtain dual citizenship. I represent the LGBT community, and especially the trans community on this issue.

    In the US, a trans individual is able to change his or her birth certificate with the local registrar’s office. Unfortunately, for immigrant Filipinos, this is not possible even with a US court order stating the change of gender and name as the Philippine government does not recognize the transgender community.

    The temporary solution Azucena is recommending is not sufficient. Transgender individuals would like to be recognized as the gender they believed they were born to be and having her passport state male is not acceptable. The Philippine congress would need to legislate on the issue providing the right to our transgender brother and sisters to be recognized as the gender they are.

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