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In Cebu, the anti-discrimination fight is not over

A year after that much-lauded anti-discrimination ordinance was passed in Cebu City, Transgender Colors Inc. noted that discriminatory acts continue to be committed against members of the LGBT community. This is the LGBT organization’s call for the local government unit to fulfill its promise to protect people irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Last October 17, 2012, the Cebuano LGBT Community celebrated a long-awaited victory in Cebu City when the council passed the first comprehensive law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, disability, health status, sexual orientation and gender identity, ethnicity and religion in the country. City Ordinance 2339 or the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance is a valued gift of the city to the LGBT community because it is the first time that a local government unit recognized the human rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders with an ordinance that promotes the welfare of the LGBT people by protecting us against discrimination.

A year has passed, and as a community, we’ve come to realize that this ordinance is still not yet fully implemented.

Transgender Colors Inc. has documented incidences of discrimination towards our community members, with most of the discriminatory acts committed against transwomen.

For instance, after the council passed this ordinance, Britney, a transwoman and a call center agent, finally had the courage to go back to school to continue her education during the second semester of 2012. She only has a subject left to take before she can graduate. However, during the enrollment, the school’s Student Affairs Office (SAO) refused Britney’s application to to enroll – this is until she complies with the university’s policies on men’s prescribed haircut. Discomfited by the terms, she decided not to pursue finishing her education.

Last November 18, 2012, two transwomen went out to party at a bar in Mango. They were refused entry into the bar – and surprisingly, only after they already paid the bar’s cover charge – because of the club’s dress code that lumps transwomen with “crossdressers”. Also on that same night and club, two transwomen who were able to enter the premises were reprimanded when they used the women’s toilet; they were forced to go to the men’s toilet.  Because only two days elapsed when the Cebu City mayor signed the ordinance, Transgender Colors Inc. wrote a letter to his office, asking for a inquiry to be made on the matter.  We have yet to receive any official response from the mayor’s office.

Earlier in 2013, another transwoman, Jamie, was also not permitted to enroll until she complies with her school’s policy on prescribed haircut and uniform for men. Worried that she may not get a degree, she decided to cut her hair, and she now resents having a male identity.

And then just last June, Diane, a call center manager, successfully enrolled in a Law school. To her shock and dismay, however, she was belatedly reprimanded and advised to comply with the prescribed haircut for male students or she will no longer be allowed to enter the school. On the same note, Gabee was reprimanded by the guard of her university because she was seen using the women’s toilet. As a punishment, she was forced to surrender her ID.

These incidences were documented because all these transwomen reported what they experienced to our organization in the hope that the existing ordinance will protect them from the discrimination based on their gender identity. We recognize that the actual number of discrimination experienced by LGBT people may be higher, considering that there are a lot of unreported incidences. One only needs to look at Facebook accounts to see the prevalence of these discriminatory acts.


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There is still a lot to do in the fight against discrimination, so that other than gathering incident reports, Transgender Colors Inc. has been consistently promoting and educating particularly LGBT people about the ordinance, reaching our members and other LGBT organizations in the barangays of Cebu City. Also, we’ve been conducting activities to raise awareness on non-discrimination and equality.

Now, we, members of the LGBT community, are humbly asking the members of the City Council to pass an ordinance creating the Anti-Discrimination Commission as soon as possible so that LGBT people, as well as members of other vulnerable sectors, will finally feel safe and secure in our city by being protected from discrimination.

Let us make our Cebu City free from discrimination!

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