UP elects first transgender student council head

Posted at 03/02/2012 5:51 PM | Updated as of 03/03/2012 12:32 PM

Gabriel Paolo "Heart" Diño

MANILA, Philippines - The University of the Philippines elected on Thursday a transgender head of student government, a first in the university.

Gabriel Paolo "Heart" Diño, a graduate student in Applied Mathematics, will serve as chairperson of the UP Student Council (USC) for one year.

Diño is currently the councilor and gender committee head of the USC, and was the councilor for the UP College of Science Student Council from 2010 to 2011.

"I came here not only to speak about what changes we want in our University Student Council. I also stand before you to remind that you, yourselves, are the change this university and this nation needs," Diño, who prefers to be called a "she," said in a statement released by her Alyansa party.

Groups such as UP Babaylan, the largest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender organization in the university, have expressed their support for Diño and are hopeful that LGBTs will soon be treated equally in Philippine society.

"Transgenders like Heart are oftentimes treated unfairly because of who they are and because of their gender and sexuality. As a leader, Heart embodies the soul of UP -- the Iska who can excel to catalyze change, one who could bring about change, if we are willing to accept our differences," UP Babaylan said in a statement.

The Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines, for its part, said: "While we are aware that much more still needs to be done towards the equality of men and women in the Philippines, the candidacy of Heart is a testament to the progress that has been gained in the struggle for sexual rights in our country."