Miss Trans Global 2020 Mela Habijan was heartbroken upon learning four trans senior high school graduates will be missing out on their ceremonies for rules imposed by their school. Since she didn't want the students to miss out on the milestone, she gave them their own graduation photoshoot.
Graduating students Nicole, Kendi, Jade, and Rey weren't allowed to attend the affair in dresses and were also required to cut their hair. They were told that it was a "formal event" and that their hair would grow out again anyway.
Habijan told PhilSTAR L!fe that she learned about the situation when Nicole reached out to her. In response, she contacted the Department of Education (DepEd) about it.
"Why can't they be themselves in an occasion they worked hard for? Why aren't they allowed? Why do they have to compromise their identities," Habijan wrote on June 26.
She then decided to gift the students with a graduation photoshoot where they could look their most true, fabulous selves. The shoot would "remind them of their worth as trans people," she said.
Meet Nicole, Kendi, Jade, and Rey.— Miss Mela Habijan (@missmelahabijan) June 26, 2022
They are graduating Senior High School students. Sadly, they aren’t going to their graduation ceremonies on Monday, June 27, for they aren’t allowed to come in dresses and they are required to cut their hair. pic.twitter.com/nePkBaNVVr
"I know this won't take the pain away. They were robbed of an opportunity of a lifetime to march and receive their hard-earned diplomas. I wish I could do more for them. I tried to move mountains and talk to DepEd leaders regarding their (and other LGBTQIA+) situations," Habijan added.
The post has since gone viral with over 11,000 shares on Facebook as of writing, and Kendi, Rey, and Nicole have been allowed to march on their graduation on June 27. They are still waiting on news from Jade's school, which will have their graduation ceremonies on June 29.
Habijan didn't expect the post to go viral but is glad it did. "I'm glad people saw it as a case that we should put ourselves into. These girls deserve the right to be there, to get their diplomas. If it did not have that reach, I don't think the administrators would take time to consider because they were firm that if the girls didn't want to come to the graduation with short hair and in male outfits, they wouldn't be accepted in the vicinity," she continued.
"The call stands for ALL DepEd schools: Be truly inclusive! Acknowledge and celebrate LGBTQIA+ identities! Let trans students march!" Habijan added.
JUST IN: Kendi, Rey, and Nicole have been allowed to march today.— Miss Mela Habijan (@missmelahabijan) June 27, 2022
Just waiting for Jade’s school. Erratum: her graduation is on Wednesday.
The call stands for ALL DepEd schools: BE TRULY INCLUSIVE! ACKNOWLEDGE AND CELEBRATE LGBTQIA+ IDENTITY! LET TRANS STUDENTS MARCH! pic.twitter.com/sJHOtM82IW
On June 27 evening, DepEd issued a regional memorandum allowing students to wear clothes aligned with their gender identity in school activities, including graduation.
WE WON! JUST IN: DEPED NCR RELEASES A REGIONAL MEMORANDUM ALLOWING STUDENTS TO COME AS THEY ARE IN ANY SCHOOL ACTVITY INCLUDING GRADUATION!— Miss Mela Habijan (@missmelahabijan) June 28, 2022
Signed by OIC-Usec and RD Willie Cabral, the memo reiterated the Gender Responsive Basic Education Policy. pic.twitter.com/teAu93R4Hc