In this episode of “controversies that make no sense,” a series that I just made up right now since this keeps happening, a Samal Island resort is in hot water because they’ve banned trans women from using their facilities…as an act to stop these women from being discriminated against.
Is your head hurting yet? I don’t blame you.
Let me backtrack a little bit.
On May 12, Isla Reta Beach Resort in Davao del Norte made a now-deleted announcement on its Facebook page. The short announcement simply read, “We inform to the public we cannot accomodate transgender (sic) because we have no facility for them to avoid issues of discrimination.” As you can imagine, this post quickly became viral and was decried by several LGBTQ+ groups. The policy itself is bad, but the casualness in which it was written is almost humorous in its absurdity.
LOOK: Mindanao-based LGBTQ+ organizations released a unity statement condemning the discriminatory policy of Isla Reta Beach Resort.
The announcement was prompted by Shannon Remotigue Gonzaga, a trans woman who alleged in a Facebook post on May 10 that she was discriminated against at the resort. Intending to get a bath to rinse off the salt water from swimming in the beach, Gonzaga had gone to the resort’s women’s shower room, where a staffer directed her to the men’s bathroom instead. She initially decided to go, but she noticed that the men’s room already had multiple topless men in it, so she once again headed towards the women’s shower room, where some of her companions, including her aunt and a friend, were. However, she was barred once again, and when she tried to reason with the staffer, the employee allegedly told her “Ai DILI SA PIKAS KA KAY GAY KA (sic).” (No, you have to go to the other restroom because you’re gay).
It gets worse, unfortunately. When Gonzaga told the staffer that she’s trans and has been taking hormones since she was 18, the attendant allegedly replied that only trans women who’ve had bottom surgery could get in. This made Gonzaga justifiably clap back: “HALA INGANI MO APPROACH SA AMOA???? SO MEANING , IF EVER MAKI SHOWER ME MGA TRANS SA INYUHA CR KAILANGAN PA NAMO IPAKITA AMOA PRIVATE PART PARA LANG MA PROVE NA OPERADA NAME”? PARA MAKA GAMIT me ana teh? (sic).” (So that’s how you’ll treat us? If us trans people want to use your shower, we’ll have to show our private parts to prove that we’ve had our operation done?) She then walked out, changing instead at her tent.
It doesn’t end there, though. After she left, the staffer had apparently asked her aunt for video proof that Gonzaga had an operation done. I don’t know about you, but that’s a clear invasion of privacy to me. Gonzaga also went to the resort’s management to report what had happened, but she found out that what the staffer had done was the resort’s policy, with the manager both first misgendering her as a gay man and then saying she needed proof that she had bottom surgery done.
Count ’em: Gonzaga’s post details multiple accounts of transphobia and intrusion of privacy within just two interactions. If you think that she should’ve stuck it up, let me tell you that anti-trans violence is a real problem and making her use the already occupied men’s bathroom could’ve potentially opened her up to a physical attack. We can’t ignore that reality.
Now back to Isla Reta. The resort has since walked back on their initial announcement and posted a clarification—which if you ask me, only clarifies exactly how discriminatory their shower policies are.
It starts with, “The statement was made after a transgender/transwoman (sic) was politely declined the use the (sic) women’s shower room. Thereafter, the trans was accusing us of discrimination in her FB page/posts.” Hell of an opening line there, buddy, and one that digs you straight into hole. Even if the employee had been “polite,” barring a trans woman from using the women’s shower room is in itself already transphobic.
The new statement continues with claims that cis women customers have had complaints about trans women being in the comfort rooms, and that they allegedly feel unsafe and vulnerable sharing a shower women with them. That’s… not really an excuse? Why privilege the comfort of a Marites over the safety of a trans woman? Cis women should not be used as a shield against our fellow women, and trans women should not be treated like monsters out to get cis women. “Please respect the management’s policy on using the shower rooms and CR as we have to consider and protect other guests, particularly the women’s rights and privacy,” the memo reads.
The resort shared, too, that it has LGBT+ employees and that they are not “homophobic or transphobic and that all members of the LGBTQ+ are welcome.” Way to foster that welcoming energy.
The clarification, replete with insensitive wording (“a trans” is not a good way to refer to another human being), also reiterates that the resort does not have the proper facilities to accommodate trans people. Apparently, the shower rooms, which are separated by male and female, are an open space, meaning everyone inside it can see each other. It’s a common enough practice in resorts, especially the small ones. This should’ve clued in the management, however, in just how alarming it would be for a trans woman to shower in the same place as a cis man.
The Department of Tourism has since announced that it is looking into the matter. “DOT promotes gender equality and mainstreaming, and does not tolerate gender discrimination in its systems, structures, policies, programs and processes. We enjoin the entire tourism industry to abide by our national laws on Gender and Development.”
Honestly? It looks pretty clear cut to me. As fatal violence against trans and gender-noncomforming people continues to surge, it’s our responsibility as a community to look out for our siblings and ensure their protection.
In better news, though, the Commission on Human Rights is holding an event in tribute to the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, Intersexism, and Biphobia on May 20. One of the speakers at the event will be Gonzaga, who’ll talk about her experience at the resort.
Preen.ph has reached out to Isla Reta Beach Resort for their statement. As of writing, they have yet to respond.