Baklitaktakan: LGBTQIA+ community members talk about UPLB as a safe space

By Sophia Margaux Mueco

Voice out and proud. The video podcast features Sai Saipudin from the UPLB Gender Center, Airah Francisco from BS Biology, and Coline Fortus from BS Development Communication. (Screen capture from Back to 4031 Episode 2)

The University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) welcomed back its students during the gradual reopening of campus in 2022. Since then, it has been a question whether the campus will be a safe space for its constituents, especially the LGBTQIA+ community.

Back to 4031, a video podcast produced by DEVC 136 (Multi-media Materials Production and Management) D-2L students, aired an episode last April 28, 2023, entitled “Baklitaktakan” which discusses how the UPLB campus promotes and practices being a safe space for members of the LGBTQIA+ community. It featured Sai Saipudin from the UPLB Gender Center, Airah Francisco from BS Biology, and Coline Fortus from BS Development Communication.

When asked about UPLB being a safe space, the podcast guests have expressed that it has been safe for them so far.

I think relatively safe space naman siya. People are very tolerant of the way people dress, people express themselves,” Coline said.

 “Tingin ko kasi the culture here in Elbi is very open, kasi very diverse din ‘yung mga tao na nandito. From different walks of life, iba’t ibang lugar,” Sai added.

For me safe space siya, kasi dito ko rin na-discover ‘yung mga fellow LGBTQ+ people ko, sa org ko,” Airah said.

However, despite feeling safe on campus, they still recognize that discrimination still happens to their fellow LGBTQIA+ members, especially their peers and other individuals they know.

Airah mentioned the lack of assertiveness in policies from other state universities and agencies, particularly having more formalized policies on honoring lived names rather than government names. 

“Sana vina-value natin ‘yung lived name ng mga trans and gender conformity ng mga people natin, kasi ‘yun naman talaga kung sino sila eh. Iba siya sa government name or legal name nila. ‘Yun ‘yung gusto ko sanang mas makuha ng labas,Airah added.

Meanwhile, Coline discussed some struggles as a transwoman in the university, such as not being allowed to change her ID picture, despite having changes in appearance due to transitioning. 

I think it’s important na ‘yung ating rules or policies give chances to transgender people,”Coline said. 

Sai of the UPLB Gender Center also talked about the initiatives that their office has been doing, such as conducting gender sensitivity training in various university offices. In the long run, their goal is to instill these trainings among university constituents, especially students and faculty.

Towards the end of the episode, Airah urged the UPLB community to express themselves and join collectives and organizations that promote LGBTQIA+ rights. 

“Patuloy lang tayo sa ating tinatahak na journey kasi hindi naman overnight magbabago agad lahat-lahat. So, we start with one step and another step hanggang sa nakita natin na nandoon na pala tayo. Patuloy lang tayo kahit may hurdles,” Sai said.

Lastly, Coline mentioned that the LGBTQIA+ community should continue fighting for their rights, despite becoming more accepted, since conservative agenda and influences still prevail.