It’s been a few days since trans woman Gretchen Diez made headlines after being detained for entering a female restroom at Farmer’s Plaza in Cubao. The ordeal opened up a conversation on protecting transgender people and how the LGBTQ+ community continue to be discriminated against based on their self-expression.
Since the incident, Gretchen was released and she said the janitress who berated her, as well as mall management, apologized to her. She also filed a complaint against the mall for violating Quezon City’s Gender Fair Ordinance, aka anti-discrimination ordinance.
Although Farmers Plaza reportedly refused to release a public statement at first, they did release one via Araneta Center’s social media platforms. But people weren’t buying their apology, especially the claim they didn’t know what was happening at the time and the fact they’ve distanced themselves from the janitress, who was hired from an agency.
“[Their] reply towards the issue is an act of ‘hugas-kamay’ where they literally put all the blame to everyone but themselves,” trans YouTuber Gigi Esguerra told us. “There was a huge lack in their part for not owning up to what happened, considering Araneta’s pro-LGBTQIA+ stance back at Pride Week.”
In case you didn’t know: Araneta Center unveiled a rainbow-colored pedestrian lane and skywalk last June in support of Pride. This is why people are now calling them out for “pinkwashing,” or capitalizing on LGBTQ+ themes for publicity. It’s equally disappointing because QC has an ordinance prohibiting any form of discrimination and requires establishments in the city to have gender-neutral restrooms as one of its provisions.
JUST IN: Araneta Cubao updated their restroom signs near Portal 7, Green gate side. We hope to see more all-gender restrooms around public spaces soon.
— SCOUT (@scoutmagph) August 14, 2019
Vince Liban, national convener of PANTAY, said Araneta Center as a whole should conduct “gender sensitivity trainings for their employees and speaking outright to support the SOGIE Equality Bill” if they want to offer their allyship to the LGBTQ+ community.
The issue now is not just about restrooms. It’s about getting the government—or any commercial establishments—to act on incidents similar to this so it never happens again.
Netizens had lots to say about the incident involving Gretchen Diez. Many expressed their support, while others questioned why a trans woman should even be allowed in the women’s restroom when she’s “a man in a dress.” There were also comments suggesting that men would start crossdressing so they could spy on women in the bathroom. Take note that these concerns were aired by both cisgender men and women.
“It’s honestly so perverted for them to even assume that allowing trans women would be an opportunity for cis men to invade women’s restroom. This kind of mentality is crafted by men who are perverted enough to think that they could have a chance of sexually assaulting women at the space of a comfort room,” Gigi said.
That said, there had been discussions among solons to provide the LGBTQ+ community a separate restroom to protect them from harassment. But this goes against the goal of equality because you consider LGBTQ+ people as a “third sex,” which is ostracizing.
We also have the likes of Sen. Tito Sotto who claimed that restrooms are “biology based.” “Lesbians cannot stand in a male only urinals. Konting reality check naman,” he said. Since we’re talking about reality checks, we’d like to remind you that lesbians don’t identify as male. Please brush up on your SOGIE education, senator.
“LGBTIQ+ people have a right to pee in peace without threat to their security & safety. A third toilet is discriminatory because it embodies the idea of ‘separate & unequal,’” Naomi Fontanos, founder of GANDA Filipinas, told us. “Trans women are women. Trans men are men. We do not need extra structures to affirm that.”
What about concerns of trans women or straight men crossdressing to spy on women? Well, according to a study published in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, there are only a small number of cases where transgender people or those pretending as one have violated the privacy of women in restrooms.
In short: Trans women are no threat to cisgender women.
But, obviously, the problem here isn’t about restrooms. It’s about breaking a system that discriminates against the LGBTQ+ community and their rights—be it to freely enter a public space, or just living their lives in general.
The Philippines was named one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world. A Pew Research Center survey in 2013 found that 73 percent of adult Filipinos agree that “homosexuality should be accepted by society.”
However, it’s ironic because we don’t even have an anti-discrimination law, aka the SOGIE Equality Bill on the national level yet. Take note that the bill was first filed in 2000—it’s already 2019 and Sen. Risa Hontiveros had to refile it because it wasn’t passed during the 17th Congress.
We will refile the SOGIE equality bill on the 1ST DAY of the 18th Cong.
We will come back stronger, brighter, more ready. ??
Trust me, the 18th Cong will see the birth of the SOGIE equality law. ?https://t.co/SQiF7ysLTr
— risa hontiveros (@risahontiveros) June 7, 2019
This week alone, we’ve seen two acts of discrimination against trans women—the first was at a bar in BGC—and we know this won’t be the last time unless action is taken.
“In many parts of the country, people are more vulnerable because we do not have a national law protecting all of us from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression (SOGIE),” Vince said. “It’s high time that establishments show public support, and the government pass a national legislation that protects all individuals from discrimination based on SOGIE. Now is the time to win SOGIE Equality in the country.”
The topic of intersectionality
Intersectionality, referred to as “intersectional feminism,” was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw which identifies how social and political discrimination overlap with gender. It addresses the concept of “white feminism,” which is a label given to efforts that exclude minorities like POCs and the LGBTQ+ community. It also challenges the idea that feminism only serves the middle-class, non-POCs, and cis-gendered people.
This topic has come up after Gretchen posted photos with senators Bong Go and Imee Marcos. Both of them have expressed their support to Gretchen and condemned the discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community and called for the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill. Which is ironic because Sen. Marcos is against same-sex marriage, while Sen. Go is a supporter of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, who is a misogynist and uses homophobic narratives.
Again, it boils down to intersectionality: You can’t fight for one cause while stepping on the rights of others.
Many were disappointed, asking how someone could fight for trans rights while allegedly supporting these senators. We’ve also reached out to Gretchen for this article, but she has not responded.
It's infuriating that Gretchen Custodio Diez after she won the case exercising her rights, shared pictures with Bong Go and a Marcos who support tyrannical regimes. ??♀️ Proves that no matter who you support, you deserve #HumanRights #HumanityFirst #SOGIEEqualityNow
— p0rsh (@p0rsh) August 16, 2019
gretchen diez' posting of pictures with senators bong go and imee marcos show that, like her, many LGBTQI ppl don't easily make the connection between LGBTQI rights and other human rights-related issues. many of us were ignorant just like her but were just lucky to receive /
— james (he/mx.) #SOGIEEqualityNow (@lysanderjames) August 15, 2019
Is Gretchen’s alleged support for anti-LGBTQ+ and Duterte-backed entities problematic? Yes.
Did what happen to her in Farmer’s Plaza open more discussions in passing the SOGIE Equality Bill? Also yes. Remember that this is just one of many unfortunate incidents against LGBTQ+ people, and the SOGIE Equality Bill is almost two decades overdue.
What we need to do as Filipino citizens is to see if our politicians walk the talk in passing the SOGIE Equality Bill, and supporting other causes concerning the LGBTQ+ community.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash
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