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Op-Ed

A different take on the Valkyrie issue

To continue – even elevate – discussions on this, Outrage Magazine is publishing a different take on the Valkyrie issue, courtesy of Atty. Bruce V. Rivera who agreed to share his (in his own words) rants. “Cross-dressers and transgenders are human beings. As citizens, they are entitled to all the rights and obligations granted by law. The problem is how we define the meaning of discrimination,” he says.

To continue – even elevate – discussions on this, Outrage Magazine is publishing a different take on the Valkyrie issue, courtesy of Atty. Bruce V. Rivera who agreed to share his (in his own words) rants. “Cross-dressers and transgenders are human beings. As citizens, they are entitled to all the rights and obligations granted by law. The problem is how we define the meaning of discrimination,” he says.

Valkyrie cited for transphobia

Everyone close to me knows how I love my cross-dressing sisters. So I know my comment will raise eyebrows and elicit negative reactions. But this is the reality of the matter. Cross-dressers and transgenders are human beings. As citizens, they are entitled to all the rights and obligations granted by law. The problem is how we define the meaning of discrimination.

Is a democracy allowed to discriminate? The answer is YES. Provided there is a valid classification. Hence, private schools can choose to accept only male or female while some choose to accept both. We do not allow foreigners to own lands because it is only reserved for Filipinos. We only allow biological women to join Bb. Pilipinas in the same manner we do not allow them to join Queen of the Philippines. Those are forms of discrimination but they are allowed. Why? Because there is a valid classification.

The problem with our laws is that there are only two sexes, male and female, and it is determined by birth. Even with gender re-assignment, the classification has not changed. Is this sad? Of course. But from the point of view of law, you cannot discriminate something that is not legally recognized and defined. The same law that forces a transgender to write M to the question of sex even if the heart wants to write F.

If the controversy was about denying a cross-dresser the right to vote. Or denying a transgender the right to own property or denied the right to practice a profession, I would have taken the cudgels for the community. Clearly, it is discrimination when someone is denied a basic right as a citizen because of his or her perceived difference.

But this is denial of entry to an exclusive bar. Veejay will not be denied life or liberty if she is not allowed entry to Valkyrie because her right to party was denied. She can just go to another bar that welcomes her with open arms. A bruised ego does not mean discrimination. “No cross-dressing” is a rude policy, but is it prohibited? The answer is NO. Every business person knows this is merely a business decision.

Bars and night clubs are operated targeting a specific market. Some are open to everyone based on the concept of a free market economy. However, there are clubs that market itself through its exclusivity. It has a guest list. It decides who it allows in. It does not make money on the few nuggets of pesos by the common man but on the millions spent by the chosen clientele. That is business. These clubs cater to the taste of their target clientele and specified groups of people their clientele wants to party with. Sadly, most of them do not wish to party with cross-dressers. It is unfortunate that while most of us endeavor to advocate for LGBT equality, there are still so many of them who do not share our tolerance and acceptance. The harsh reality of business.

This same harsh business reality is the reason why clubs in Greenwich Village who cater to purely gay clientele turn away straight customers. Or a bar in Thailand that only allows transgenders and straight men to party while shunning straight acting homosexuals. Or a bar in Brazil that only caters to fat people. It is not discrimination. It is just business.

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Just because there is a bar called Valkyrie does not give everyone the human right to be admitted inside.

ON JUNE 23, 2015, VEEJAY FLORESCA APPEARED ON ABS-CBN’S ‘AQUINO AND ABUNDA TONIGHT’

FOLLOWING THE APPEARANCE OF FLORESCA IN THE TV SHOW, ATTY. RIVERA POSTED HIS “LAST WORDS” ON THE ISSUE

I watched the Aquino and Abunda interview of Veejay and I realized that she was the Project Runway finalist (if my memory serves me right) whose talent is undeniable.

Let me lay-out some things at the onset. Was there damage? Yes, the feeling of being turned away is shameful and demeaning and I will not wish it on anyone. I had my share of being turned away in a breakfast buffet in a hotel in Manila because the hotel receptionist did not recognize me. She told me the slot was reserved for a school administrator and that I did not look old enough to fit the description. I intended to sue but the hotel was very apologetic. So I let it go. See, I was discriminated based on how I looked.

Should Veejay feel bad? Yes. She has earned her status as a priestess of fashion. And she may choose to vindicate or be the bigger person and let it go.

Should the LGBT react the way it has reacted? Honestly, I think there was an overreaction. The community wishes for equality and acceptance. Equality can be achieved when the law finally recognizes our existence and our rights be given. Acceptance is another thing. We do not just want tolerance, we need to be accepted. When you tolerate, you do not need to like the person. It is merely an acknowledgment of our existence. When we aim for acceptance, there is a positive act involved because when you accept, there must be a favorable feeling towards us.

What have we been doing so far? Sadly, and this is my personal opinion, not very much. It is because the LGBT suffers from a perception problem. People do not take us seriously and it is in situations like this that we are losing sympathy from the very people who we want to accept us. We fight bigotry with reason. We fight indifference with humanity. We fight, but we should choose our battles.

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I am a huge fan of Miss Rocero for breaking boundaries plus the fact that she is Cebuano (According to her Wikipedia profile, Ms Rocero is actually from Manila, though she is now an American citizen – Ed). But not all situations involving beautiful transgenders treated badly should there be a reason to wage war. Why? Because instead of gaining friends, we are losing sympathy even from our own kind. Miss Floresca can fight her own wars and we should not put the stamp of LGBT war cry because it worsens how people perceive us.

Let me enumerate:

First, a California license stating you are a female will only be valid in the United States. If Miss Floresca was American, the Civil Code will force us to follow how her citizenship sees her (as a woman) because status is governed by the nationality of the person. But Veejay is still Filipino. And as Filipino, we will have to classify her as male since that was the sex assigned to her by birth. Sad but true. Miss Rocero, being American, can insist she is a woman, but Miss Floresca cannot.

Second, at mag-ta-Tagalog ako para maintindihan ng lahat. ‘Yung mga pinaglalaban natin, napaka-shallow. Karamihan ng Pilipino, nagugutom, salat sa buhay at pagod sa pagbabanat sa buto. Tapos maririnig nila na galit na galit tayo kasi may isang kakosa natin na hindi pinapasok sa mamahaling club. Naman! Maghanap tayo ng situation na yung isang beki ay tinanggal sa trabaho, hindi tinanggap sa trabaho kahit qualified, hindi binentahan ng gamot or di kaya binugbog dahil bakla. Then the common man can relate and sympathize. But when our battle cry is… boo hoo, hindi kami pinapasok sa bar, hindi kami tao kasi hindi kami pinayagang maging masaya at mag-party. Sa isang ordinaryong Pilipino na yung isang buwang sweldo ay katumbas ng gagatusin ng isang beki sa isang gabi ng pag-pa-party, ang sasabihin niya… ‘Tang-ina! Hindi lang kayo napapasok, hindi na tao agad. Eh kami nga walang makain.’

I am not saying we stop fighting for equality and acceptance. What I am trying to tell you and I am risking my life and limb for being too outspoken about this is:

Hindi tayo tira lang ng tira. Away lang ng away. Patulan lahat at discrimination agad. Kasi sa totoo lang, pati babae at lalake biktima din ng discrimination. Siguradong mas madaming babae at lalake ang hindi pinapasok sa club na yan kesa sa beki. Mas madaming straight ang hindi nakapasok sa mga tindahang napasukan natin dahil wala silang pera, hindi nakakain ng kinakain natin dahil salat sila sa buhay. Naging masyado tayong maselan. Nagiging paandar at pag-i-inarte na. Let us be relevant. Let our advocacy have essence. Hindi yung parade lang tayo ng parade, mag-sponsor ng inuman at naka-itim or puti or pink ang lahat ng a-attend at awayin sa social media ang lahat ng galit sa atin.

Because the only way to be accepted, is when people will see our similarities rather than our differences.

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