04 February 2013

Biologically Male; Legally Female

There are those among us who to some degree or another have been inconvenienced by a seemingly innocuous error committed by some disinterested clerk at the civil registry office who didn’t type too well, couldn’t hear too well, didn’t know how to spell or just plain had nothing between the ears.

My own name is a classic example. My Mom registered me from kindergarten to high school as Rex Raymund. Notice the ‘u.’ That was how she intended my name to be and also how I used to think of myself.

Before I went off to college, Mom decided that I was old enough to take care of my own birth certificate. That was when I discovered that Rex Raymund did not legally exist because printed on my birth certificate was Rex Raymond. With an ‘o.’

From then on, it was a simple matter for me of using the correct one and I didn’t really care either way. There was no inconvenience whatsoever.


Even if he went to the civil registry office and pulled his pants down to expose his pride and glory, none of the clerks would have been empowered to change the gender stated in his birth certificate because the law said that a judicial order was required.
The inconvenience happened when I was applying for the first time for a passport and an eagle-eyed officer at the Foreign Affairs Office in Lucena noticed that my authenticated birth certificate showed my surname as two words – TORRE CAMPO.

“Notice,” I tried rationalising with the officer, “that my father’s name is spelled as TORRECAMPO. Without the space.”

The officer was sympathetic; and I knew that he was really just trying to do his job. In consideration, he said that he would have my passport processed but also that I would have to return the next day with a corrected authenticated birth certificate.

Anyone who has tried applying for a passport knows how much time, effort and patience is required. To have to return because of an error that I did not commit was not only cruel; it was unjust. But that was just the way things went.

The next day at the local civil registry, the same clerk who mis-typed my authenticated birth certificate was doubtful that she had made a typo. It was a certifiable DUH moment but what was the point?

She finally agreed to do another one after I showed her the original.

This time, I made sure everything was correct before leaving. Some things in life you just learn the hard way!

But that experience is nothing compared to a former colleague’s. He couldn’t even apply for a passport. His birth certificate showed his gender to be female.

There was no question whatsoever that he was male. He looked male; acted male. If there were at all any doubts that the bulge inside his pants was a ball of socks, his wife would probably have gladly testified that his two children at the time did not arrive courtesy of a stork.

Logic says that he was male. Sad to say, the law is not always logical.

At the time, he had to undergo a series of court hearings – at his own expense – just to be able to obtain a judicial order that would have finally corrected a clerical error that he had absolutely nothing to do with.

How unfair was that?

Even if he went to the civil registry office and pulled his pants down to expose his pride and glory, none of the clerks would have been empowered to change the gender stated in his birth certificate because the law said that a judicial order was required.

The situation also hypothetically raised the question of the legality of his marriage. Since he was legally female, he was technically married to another female. As everyone knows, same-sex marriage is not legal in this country.

Fortunately, a new law was ratified August last year that will finally enable civil registrars to correct these clerical errors that have been causing undeserved and unjust inconvenience to citizens.

Called Republic Act 10172, passed by the 15th Congress and signed into law last August, the city or municipal registrars or the consul general “to correct clerical or typographical errors in the day and month in the date of birth or sex of a person appearing in the civil register without the need of a judicial order.”

RA 10172 is actually an amendment to RA 9048, passed in 2001, which initially sought to empower registrars and consul generals to make the correction without the judicial order.

You may ask, why was a judicial order required in the first place for a clerical error some of which – like my former colleague’s case – are matters of common sense. Well, the culprit is the Civil Code of the Philippines which was passed as far back as – don’t grimace – 1949.

Government may be slow; but at least in this instance we know it is not inutile – and that there are those in Congress who do care about obscure little provisions of law that ultimately prove more burdensome to citizens.

I have become quite comfortable with Raymond to even contemplate visiting the civil registry office; but for my former colleague, it must be comforting to know now that court hearings are no longer required and all he has to do is file a petition in person at the civil registry office.

A small inconvenience to finally become legally male.

For those with similar legal dilemmas, here are the implementing guidelines to RA 10172.

The full text of RA 10172 is here.

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