A cross-dressing performance during a De La Salle University (DLSU) Manila pep rally has sparked controvery among students, the DLSU University Student Government (USG), and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
On Sept. 28, members of the DLSU men's basketball team performed a TikTok-inspired dance number while wearing dresses, which prompted many to express their discomfort. The performance has been a longstanding tradition among DLSU athletes for their new members.
In a now-deleted post, USG President Giorgina Escoto had said that the performance made many students uncomfortable, including herself, because of the nature of using gender expression for entertainment purposes.
"Yes, you are free to dress however you want. Pero hindi source of entertainment ang gender expression ng mga tao. Not whjen so many people still face discrimination for it," she wrote.
""This is not the #SafeandInclusiveDLSU that we continue to lobby for."
The Manila campus has long allowed students to freely express themselves through clothing regardless of gender.
UNIVERSITY: University Student Government President Giorgina Escoto calls out the crossdressing performances during the Athlete's General Assembly and Animo Rally yesterday, September 28. pic.twitter.com/u2d4LoByWB— The LaSallian (@TheLaSallian) September 29, 2022
Meanwhile, the university's first Gender Equality and Empowerment Commissioner also decried the performance.
"As a queer student, our identities are something we choose, something we form, and something we have always fought for within the community," wrote Moira Pulumbarit in a Facebook post shortly after Escoto.
"Hindi katawa tawang bagay ang pinaglalaban ng komunidad namin."
"Hindi pinanggagalingan ng aliw ang bagay na hanggang ngayon patuloy naming hinaharap, patuloy naming linalabanan na buhay ang nakataya. Sana sa susunod ay maalala natin na intindihin ang hinanaing ng kada sektor. Sana lagi’t lagi naalala natin na maraming pwede masaktan sa mga bagay na akala natin normal lang na itrato bilang pinanggagalingan ng ating katuwaan," she added.
LGBTQ+ rights group Bahaghari also shared a video of the performance and reiterated that men cross-dressing is not a "punchline."
"What others consider a simple punchline is a serious ordeal for LGBTQIA+ persons, who courageously fight ridicule and abuse daily for the right to self-expression," they wrote.
The House of Iris Vito Cruz, a LGBTQ+ group founded by students near Vito Cruz in Manila, also castigated the dance number and asserted that rules be changed under the resumed face-to-face classes.
"Some may argue that the wearing of dresses or skirts to mock one's gender expression is a harmless display of fun. However, expressing one's gender remains a struggle for trans and non-binary individuals throughout the country. Who could forget Khaleed "Khay" Abdulgajir or Tatiana "Tats" Tumicad, who were both brutally murdered just because of their gender identity?" they queried.
"The mockery of our gender expression is normalized due to our patriarchal culture which suppresses queer expression. Gender non-conforming persons are reduced to caricatures and as the targets of a joke with negative representations in the media."
Meanwhile, the University of the Philippines' longest-existing duly recognized LGBTQI student organization, UP Babaylan, likewise released a statement condemning the cross-dressing performance.
"Our gender expression is not a joke — not when many of us are discriminated, harassed, and even killed by staying true to who we are. Our reality is not a laughing matter."
DLSU students have since also shared their stance on the performance via social media.
One student who wears dresses and skirts to campus said that they indeed felt uncomfortable during the performance.
As someone who literally enters campus wearing dresses/skirts, i felt uncomfortable during yesterdays pep rally because my gender expression was used as a punchline for a horrible joke! https://t.co/F8CiNF9QzE— Deo (@deogelo) September 29, 2022
Another pointed out the repercussions if a queer person would do the same thing on campus.
tbh the dlsu pep rally ruined my day becuz of the “crossdressing” portion cuz if queer ppl were to do that, would they get the same amount of support? at the same time, in reality, those who actually express that way are hate-crimed and discriminated upon. pic.twitter.com/59nwVZyQJc— migs #NeverForget (@migseu_) September 29, 2022
PhilSTAR L!fe has reached out to Palumbarit and the DLSU Student Affairs Office for comments on this matter but has not received any as of writing.