Our Brave New World (Fourth of a Five-part Series)

Sass Rogando Sasot feels blessed to “have become part of the birth of the transgender rights movement in the Philippines”, a movement started in the first decade of the 21st century. And since during those ten years, she has witnessed “frightening and endearing events”, she now shares these via Outrage Magazine.

A Brief History of the Birth of the Transgender Movement in the Philippines

Part 1 – Our Brave New World
Part 2 – Confronting Sexual Violence
Part 3 – Challenging Discrimination in Establishments
Part 4 – Speaking Out Against Discrimination Based on Gender Expression
Part 5 – The Rise of the Power Transpinays

Trans Celebrities Speak Out Against Discrimination Based on Gender Expression

Inday Garutay and BB Gandanghari are two Filipino trans celebrities. Their experience is a reminder that fame cannot free you from discrimination.

Inday Garutay is a comedian in the Philippines, who got her fame from impersonating the late Inday Badiday, who was considered as “Philippine television’s queen of showbiz talk shows”. The blog of the Lesbian and Gay Legislative Network (LAGABLAB) narrated the story, “According to Inday Garutay, she was in Aruba restaurant in Metrowalk Commercial Center, Pasig City, last Tuesday, July 4, 2006, at around 6.30 PM, with her boyfriend. She was to meet her Manager and another friend before her show in Zirkoh.”

“She was already inside the establishment when the incident took place. After coming back from the ladies toilet, she was reportedly told by the manager of the restaurant that she has to leave because of the establishment’s dress code. The supervisor for Aruba Metrowalk, Ms. Tin-Tin Aguilar, allegedly said that the dress code bars cross-dressing clients from entering the establishment. Despite being told that Inday was in fact already inside the establishment and that the dress code is discriminatory, Ms. Aguilar reportedly insisted that Inday should leave. Since it was futile to reason out to Ms. Aguilar that the policy is objectionable and biased, Inday decided to leave the establishment.”

Because of the incident, an investigation was launched by the Philippine Commission on Human Rights but it didn’t progress as the owners of the bar didn’t attend the investigation session. A court case against the bar was filed by Inday Garutay. Aruba Bar filed a motion to dismiss the case because the court where Inday Garutay filed the case has no jurisdiction over the bar and “Nothing also exempts homosexuals from the application of a validly and legally imposed dress code, such that a violation of such exemption would amount to legal discrimination. The true essence of democracy requires that such a dress code be applied to all persons,” regardless of race, status, sex, or sexual preference.” The incident also gave motivation for the re-filing of the Anti-Discrimination Bill during the 13th session of Philippine Congress and Senate hearing on criminalizing discrimination against LGBT Filipinos also took place.

Reading the case filed by Inday Garutay, it seemed that like the Jonathan Agudana case, this was primarily seen as discrimination based on sexual orientation rather discrimination based on gender expression.

BB Gandanghari, who was formerly known as Rustom Padilla, was a former matinee idol and one of the most bankable leading man of her time. In 2009, she shocked the whole country when she came back from her vacation from New York. She proclaimed upon arrival that she is a woman. This solicited different reactions. Some were very supportive of her right to self-determination, some were disturbed and disgusted by her affirmation of her gender identity.

In April 2009, almost three years later after the Inday Garutay incident, BB Gandanghari also suffered the same discriminatory treatment from Aruba Bar. However, BB didn’t file against Aruba Bar and became contented in questioning Aruba’s discriminatory policy through an open letter, which she posted on her blog.

She said: “What special right does Aruba Bar & Restaurant have that they can just force human beings to conform their gender expression to the gender expression traditionally associated with their assigned sex at birth? What special right does Aruba Bar & Restaurant have that they can just inflict indignity on their fellow human beings? What special right does Aruba Bar & Restaurant have that they can just enforce such transphobic policies with impunity?”

Aruba Bar is not the only bar in the Philippines that have been reported to refuse entrance to transgender people. Other bars include Manor Superclub, Members Only, Cafe Havana, and Encore (formerly known as Embassy).

The Media and Transpinays: From our bodies to social issues

Prior to the first decade of the 21st century, Philippine media’s interest towards transgender people has mostly been limited to issues of body modification. This has changed in the past ten years. The social issues faced by transpinays are now more widely-discussed in Philippine media.

Philippine broadsheets such as the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), Manila Times, and Businessworld have all published feature stories on transgender issues. PDI’s feature on Bemz Benedito and Brenda Alegre highlighted employment discrimination and the social ridicule and legal obstacles that transgender Filipinos face. The article ended with a very affirming statement from Brenda: “Believing that we are women is not a psychological disorder. This is who we are and what we are.” The Manila Times feature explored the intricacies of gender identity and expression. And Businessworld published an article penned by Naomi Fontanos and an interview of Nadine Barcelona.

Major women’s fashion magazine such as the now-defunct Marie Claire and Metro Magazine gave space for transpinays to voice out their concerns. Both Marie Claire’s 2007 feature and Metro Magazine’s feature of Dee Mendoza in its 2010 Women’s Month issue affirmed the womanhood of transpinays. UNO Magazine, which is a men’s magazine, published an article about transpinay’s quest for the right to self-determination when it featured STRAP’s chair Naomi Fontanos in August 2010. And Women’s Journal covered the 8th Anniversary celebration of STRAP in 2010.

LGBT magazines such as Outrage Magazine, Ketchup, and the now-defunct icon have also consistently gave space to transgender issues, and even featured articles written by transgender people themselves.

During the latter part of 2009, two television giants had transpinays in their primetime shows: Justine Ferrer in GMA 7’s Survivor Philippines; and Rica Paras in ABS-CBN’s Big Brother Double-Up Edition. They have been embraced by Philippine viewers. And their participation in these reality TV shows inspired a lot of transpinays as they showed to Philippine society the dignity of their humanity.

Transpinays in International Media

Transpinays have also been featured by media outside the Philippines.

Raci Ignacio was part of the cast of TransGeneration, an eight episode documentary series that tells the story of transgender college students in the United States. Raci, an Ilocana transpinay, was a merit-based scholar in California State University. The documentary was shown on Logo LGBT television network and on the Sundance Channel in 2005. It was also screened in several festivals and independent theatres as a feature film.

Minerva Rios, a Cebuana transpinay, starred in the award winning film the Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela. Produced, written, and directed by the Icelandic director Olaf de Fleur, Queen Raquela tells the story of a transpinay working in the sex industry, who travelled the world in search of true love. It premiered in the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival and won the Teddy Award for Best Feature film. After that, it was screened in different film festivals, including the 2008 Cinemanila International Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize. Undeniably, the success of Queen Raquela was largely brought by the powerful, authentic, and heartwarming performance of its star, inspiration, and soul, Minerva Rios.

The famous French weekly magazine Paris Match featured Rica Paras, Bemz Benedito, the performers of the stunning trans cabaret show of Club Mwah, and myself in May 2010. And in the 2010 winter edition of the Join, a campus magazine in the Netherlands, Adri Pangilinan graced its front cover and was the inspiration of their main feature article.

OTHER ARTICLES IN THE SERIES:
Part 1 – Our Brave New World
Part 2 – Confronting Sexual Violence
Part 3 – Challenging Discrimination in Establishments
Part 4 – Speaking Out Against Discrimination Based on Gender Expression
Part 5 – She Rise of the Power Transpinays

HELP US BY HELPING YOU HIT THE RIGHT SPOT

April 2007 marked the launching of Outrage Magazine, the only Webzine made for, and by members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the Philippines.

The LGBTzine remains loyal to the reasons of its existence (i.e. to be a relevant source of info on everything LGBT-related in the Philippines), and we are proud to say that year-on-year since we were established, Outrage Magazine’s scope has broadened, too (aside from the coverage we provide, we actually have programs effecting changes to better the plight of LGBT Filipinos).

No surprise that our reach continues to grow, too, with our Website alone now getting well over 580,000 per month on average (with 10,000 of them unique hits), while our Facebook page (not counting our other online presence) getting over hundreds of thousands of unique visits per week.

Yes, there is a need for information; and yes, we’re more than willing to provide.

And just in time, too, as pink lifestyle long invading mainstream living – think Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, or IKEA, or gay speak, or disco, or brunch, or... you get the point.

This makes the LGBT market, and those it affects, a goldmine for advertisers.

Consider these:
• 81% of LGBTs are more likely to use the Internet to obtain information about goods and services (Witeck-Combs)
• 72% to 94% of LGBTs prefer to buy brands that market directly to them (Harris/Witeck-Combs &Greenfield Online)
• 89% of LGBTs are brand-affiliated, this means that it is “most likely or highly likely to actively seek out brands that had advertised in gay media” (Simmons)
• LGBTs spend an average of 30 minutes per day, 12 times per month online (Nielsen NetRatings)
• LGBTs are twice as likely to be in management positions, twice as likely to have purchased online using a credit card, 79% are willing to pay a premium of quality products and services, 94% of gays and lesbians go out of their way to purchase products and services marketed directly to them in gay media, and 79% of LGBTs are highly likely to indulge themselves (@Plan, Simmons, Greenfield Online & Witeck-Combs)

It is time to target this market, we say.

So use us.

Abuse us, even.

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advertise@outragemag.com