Civil Law, Constitutional Law

Republic vs. Cagandahan G.R. No. 166676 September 12, 2008

FACTS:

Jennifer Cagandahan filed a Petition for Correction of Entries in Birth Certificate[In her petition, she alleged that she was born on January 13, 1981 and was registered as a female in the Certificate of Live Birth but while growing up, she developed secondary male characteristics and was diagnosed to have Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) which is a condition where persons thus afflicted possess both male and female characteristics. She further alleged that she was diagnosed to have clitoral hyperthropy in her early years and at age six, underwent an ultrasound where it was discovered that she has small ovaries. At age thirteen, tests revealed that her ovarian structures had minimized, she has stopped growing and she has no breast or menstrual development. She then alleged that for all interests and appearances as well as in mind and emotion, she has become a male person. Thus, she prayed that her birth certificate be corrected such that her gender be changed from female to male and her first name be changed from Jennifer to Jeff.

 

The RTC granted respondents petition in a Decision dated January 12, 2005.

 

ISSUE:

Whether the trial court erred in ordering the correction of entries in the birth certificate of respondent to change her sex or gender, from female to male, on the ground of her medical condition known as CAH, and her name from Jennifer to Jeff, under Rules 103 and 108 of the Rules of Court.

 

RULING:

Ultimately, we are of the view that where the person is biologically or naturally intersex the determining factor in his gender classification would be what the individual, like respondent, having reached the age of majority, with good reason thinks of his/her sex. Respondent here thinks of himself as a male and considering that his body produces high levels of male hormones (androgen) there is preponderant biological support for considering him as being male. Sexual development in cases of intersex persons makes the gender classification at birth inconclusive. It is at maturity that the gender of such persons, like respondent, is fixed.

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. Respondent could have undergone treatment and taken steps, like taking lifelong medication, to force his body into the categorical mold of a female but he did not. He chose not to do so. Nature has instead taken its due course in respondents development to reveal more fully his male characteristics.

In the absence of a law on the matter, the Court will not dictate on respondent concerning a matter so innately private as ones sexuality and lifestyle preferences, much less on whether or not to undergo medical treatment to reverse the male tendency due to CAH. The Court will not consider respondent as having erred in not choosing to undergo treatment in order to become or remain as a female. Neither will the Court force respondent to undergo treatment and to take medication in order to fit the mold of a female, as society commonly currently knows this gender of the human species. Respondent is the one who has to live with his intersex anatomy. To him belongs the human right to the pursuit of happiness and of health. Thus, to him should belong the primordial choice of what courses of action to take along the path of his sexual development and maturation. In the absence of evidence that respondent is an incompetent and in the absence of evidence to show that classifying respondent as a male will harm other members of society who are equally entitled to protection under the law, the Court affirms as valid and justified the respondents position and his personal judgment of being a male.

In so ruling we do no more than give respect to (1) the diversity of nature; and (2) how an individual deals with what nature has handed out. In other words, we respect respondents congenital condition and his mature decision to be a male. Life is already difficult for the ordinary person. We cannot but respect how respondent deals with his unordinary state and thus help make his life easier, considering the unique circumstances in this case.

As for respondents change of name under Rule 103, this Court has held that a change of name is not a matter of right but of judicial discretion, to be exercised in the light of the reasons adduced and the consequences that will follow. The trial courts grant of respondents change of name from Jennifer to Jeff implies a change of a feminine name to a masculine name. Considering the consequence that respondents change of name merely recognizes his preferred gender, we find merit in respondents change of name. Such a change will conform with the change of the entry in his birth certificate from female to male.

 

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