Even as the LGBT community all over the world marks June as the Pride month in remembrance of the Stonewall Riots that is considered to have helped ignite the modern LGBT movement, transgender woman fashion designer Veejay Floresca alleged that on June 13, she was almost refused entry by high-end bar Valkyrie in Taguig City.
Interviewed by Outrage Magazine, Floresca stated that even if she was on the guest list, “the bouncer (still) refused to let me in. He said that they don’t allow crossdressers (inside the venue),” said Floresca, who stressed that when she went to the venue, “I wore a very decent dress; nothing vulgar.”
According to Floresca, she was eventually allowed to enter the venue, though only after she showed the bouncers her California State I.D., where her gender marker identifies her as “female”.
Floresca was, by the way, earlier warned about the alleged practice of barring transgender women of Valkyrie. When her sister mentioned “one of the newest and hottest clubs in the city”, she warned Floresca that she “witnessed many times (when) transgender women weren’t able to get in (the venue).” Floresca was, therefore, asked to get in touch with her friends from high places (e.g. owners of Valkyrie, or at least those who know the owners of the bar) for her name to be included in the guest list.
“I feel sad,” Floresca said. “In my three years of living in the US, this never happened to me.”
NOT THE FIRST
Floresca is actually not the first to raise this issue.
Interestingly, according to Maristela, she had been frequenting Valkyrie, and her earlier visits were not problematic, highlighting a seeming inconsistent implementation of dress code policies.
Even earlier, In February, one Mico Lloren alleged that his transgender friend was also denied access to Valkyrie. In a Facebook post, Lloren stated that a bouncer wanted his transgender friend to “wear pants since her ID is showing ‘male’.”
Lloren’s party actually had a table reserved for them, highlighting inconsistent bar entry practices, considering Maristela’s claim that she was told to get a VIP table for her to be allowed entry.
“In what other circumstances would it be (okay) to discriminate against someone like that? To deny someone access to public accommodations? Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, whether we’re stopping at a bar for a drink, eating in a restaurant, or seeking medical treatment,” Lloren wrote, admitted to being “stung” by the experience.
According to Naomi Fontanos, who heads Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) Filipinas, “Valykrie is part of a long list of establishments including Embassy Super Club in Taguig, Prive in Makati, Manor Club in Eastwood, Aruba Bar and Restaurant in Metrowalk in Pasig with dress codes that target and oppress transgender women. I have no idea how this dress codes are used in dealing with trans male customers, but they are definitely used to bar entry, refuse service to, and publicly humiliate transgender women in the Philippines whose legal documents of course reflect our male sex assignment at birth and the legal names we were given at birth but did not choose.”
For Fontanos, “the Valkyrie case demonstrates how widespread the discrimination that transgender Filipinos face not only in getting access to public accommodations such as restaurants, gyms, malls, trains, et cetera, but also to education, employment, and social services including healthcare.”
“No crossdressing” policies are not new. In the past, establishments like Cafe Havana and Ice Vodka Bar in Greenbelt 3 made the news for such policies; these were eventually successfully overturned through advocacy work.
“However, with no national anti-discrimination law in place, these policies actually continue to be enforced although sometimes inconsistently,” Fontanos said.
All the same, for Fontanos, “while an anti-discrimination law in place will certainly help change the situation, the heart of the matter here really is gender-based oppression or how people’s notions of gender become a basis to treat others badly. So, what we really want to change here are perceptions of gender or preconceived notions about what it means to be a gendered person and a customer. And that goes right to the heart of business policy and should be asked of business owners: Do people who do fit into your notions of gender NOT DESERVE to be customers in your establishments? Why? I have found that when you asked these questions, business owners usually have no clear cut answers and realize they impose a silly practice that will give them a bad reputation and lose them customers in the long run. So they eventually remove their anti-trans dress code policy. Some establishments have remained stubborn however like Aruba Bar and Restaurant in Metrowalk, Pasig. This shows that in the Philippines, if you have money and connections, you can get away with bad behavior.”
OPEN TO DIALOGUE
Outrage Magazine tried to inquire about Valkyrie’s policies through its listed hotline (+63 917 680 8888), but has been unsuccessful in getting any response.*
However, earlier reporting on this same issue in March, Philstar.com was able to speak with a certain Monique who confirmed that they do not allow crossdressers to enter the club.
Fontanos said that such venues may let transwomen in later on, but “what if they have a female client who presents as male just because she finds those clothes more comfortable? Or what if they have a real live heterosexual male cross dresser go there? Those people are not necessarily part of the trans, les, bi, gay, queer and intersex (TLBGQI) community, but are also affected by this issue. If we will fight these types of policies, we must fight for the right of all to be themselves.”
“In the end, I hope that Valkyrie agrees to a dialogue and later on lifts its anti-trans dress code policy. Ultimately, what we want is for all establishments to adopt a human rights business policy that upholds the principles of equal treatment and non-discrimination across the board,” Fontanos ended.
*THIS IS A DEVELOPING STORY, AND OUTRAGE MAGAZINE – JUST AS WE WILL CONTINUE PRESENTING THE SIDE OF THOSE WHO ALLEGE GETTING DISCRIMINATED BY THE VENUE – WILL CONTINUE TO TRY TO REACH OUT TO VALKYRIE TO GET ITS SIDE OF THE STORY