Should transgender Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude be referred to as "he" or "she"?
The Inquirer refers to Laude, who was allegedly killed by a US Marine in Olongapo City on Saturday, as "she," following The Associated Press Stylebook, which recommends respect for the "pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth."
Laude's case has revived the question: Can a man legally become a woman and vice versa? For the Supreme Court, only in extremely rare circumstances, when nature itself blurs the lines between the sexes.
The Supreme Court has confronted the question of sex change or gender reassignment twice over the last decade, a time of mounting calls for greater legal recognition of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community across the globe.
On the one hand, the court allowed a woman stricken with a rare congenital condition to become a full-fledged man.
On the other, the court rejected the request of a man to be legally recognised as a woman, saying surgical sex alteration may not be used as legal grounds to change his sex.
From Jennifer to Jeff In a landmark ruling on Sept 12, 2008, Jennifer Cagandahan legally became Jeff.
"The current state of Philippine statutes apparently compels that a person be classified either as a male or as a female, but this Court is not controlled by mere appearances when nature itself fundamentally negates such rigid classification," the Supreme Court's Second Division said in a ruling written by now-retired Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing.
"Respondent here has simply let nature take its course and has not taken unnatural steps to arrest or interfere with what he was born with. And accordingly, he has already ordered his life to that of a male," the court said.
Cagandahan, born female on Jan 13, 1981, developed male characteristics while growing up due to a condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH).
The condition lent him intersex biological characteristics at birth - that is, he had both male and female reproductive organs. But by puberty, his male side had become more dominant, subduing his initially female characteristics by producing higher levels of androgen (male hormones) and suppressing the menstrual cycle.
A day before his birthday in 2005, a local court in Siniloan town, Laguna province, granted Cagandahan's request for correction of entries in his birth certificate to make the change legal: his sex from female to male, and his name from Jennifer to Jeff.
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), however, raised the matter to the Supreme Court, arguing that the change was illegal, and that Cagandahan's medical condition did not make him male.