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Op-Ed

Our Brave New World (First 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.

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

For the memory of Ms Tonette Lopez, a dear friend, a Cebuana transwoman, and the first transgender rights activist in the Philippines. I wish that you had seen the birth of the dream that we both once shared to each other while we both walked in the streets of Cebu City one evening in 2003. May your spirit guide the growth of this movement. My warmest gratitude to Aleksi Gumela, Malu Marin and Ging Cristobal, who encouraged me in 2001, to start a trans organization in the Philippines; to JR, the first love of my life, for supporting my passion about transgender rights when I was still in high school; and to the great love of my life, Aernout Schram de Jong, thank you for being beside me, holding my hand, come calm, come storm, making me feel and experience the lighter and positive side of life!

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

This week is the 10th year of the pivotal moment when I had reached the point of conviction to dedicate my life towards the advancement of the rights of transgender people. I was 18 years old at that time and nursing myself out of depression. Patrick Califia’s book Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism served as my companion in that black period.

When someone approaches me and asks me whether it is important for them to engage in this activism, I might be tempted to just say yes. But my thoughtful side would say, “Well, you don’t have to. Life’s is too short and it’s good, just enjoy it anyway you can, fully, wholeheartedly.” I just don’t believe that someone should do something because somebody else said it’s important. One must be internally convinced that doing something like this is indeed important. To do something with all your heart, strength, and passion begins with “I will and want do it” and not with “They want me to do it”.

Engaging in this activism is a commitment. Just like any commitment, it is replete with challenges and frustration. The road to happiness is not always a smooth one. In the course of your activism, you’ll find out that you might not be able to live in the changed world you are helping to craft. So a degree of selflessness is necessary. From time to time, you’ll hit the great wall of apathy. That will be the moment your commitment would be greatly put to a test. There will be people who will hate your guts. You’ll also absorb so much pain from the suffering of other people; and there’ll be times when you might no longer distinguish which is your pain and their pain. And there’s also a danger of falling into the traps of arrogant self-righteousness whenever you encounter those who inflict pain and suffering on others.

Yet despite the challenges and frustration, it is worth it. The depth of your commitment deepens your character. You will learn the invaluable lesson that when you want to widen the space of change around you, you should first widen the space of change within you. And the best thing of all is experiencing the humbling joy of seeing the faces of people lighting up with hope whenever your courage touches them. Seeing those faces is the “Thank You!” that you’re waiting for, the best “Thank You!” you’ll ever have, and the “Thank You!” that makes your submission to your commitment beautiful.

I feel blessed to have become part of the birth of the transgender rights movement in the Philippines. The movement started in the first decade of the 21st century. During those ten years, I have witnessed frightening and endearing events. And I want to share them with you.

READ:  Reach the people

Because of my limited resources, space, and scope of my memory, I know that I have left out a lot of events that should be here. I pray that one day life would bless me – or someone else – the opportunity to write more comprehensively about this, hopefully in a book format. Nonetheless, despite of my shortcomings, I hope these events may serve as a source of inspiration for those who would want to engage in this activism, just like how they have inspired me. But besides being sources of inspiration, some of them are pressing reminders of how much work is still needed to done.

The Jonathan Agudaña Case: The first ever known trans human rights complaint in the Philippines

The Jonathan Agudaña Case is the first ever known case involving a trans person filed in the Philippine Commission on Human Rights.

Sometime in 2000, a human rights complaint was filed by the Gay Movement for Human Rights in the Philippines (GAHUM-Philippines) on behalf of Jonathan Agudaña who was barred on two separate occasions from entering a dance club in Cebu City for wearing women’s clothes and sandals. The complaint claimed that Jonathan Agudaña was discriminated because of her “sexual orientation”. The dance club defended itself by saying that they don’t discriminate against gays. They even said that they have lots of gay patrons. They just don’t allow cross-dressing in their bar. The case was dismissed on the 11th of January 2001.

Commenting on this decision on 29 July 2001, the Regional Director of the Commission on Human Rights in Cebu (where the case has been filed), Attorney Alejandro Alonzo, was quoted in newspapers saying: “They [gays] should wear proper attire, and I don’t think [Club Royale’s policy is] a violation because customers should follow the house rules. There should be appropriate attire because they are governed by dress code.” He added: “If you’re a man, you should wear the apparel of a man or vice versa. Unless the court will grant the change of status to a particular gay just like what happened in Metro Manila.”

Notwithstanding the decision of the Commission and the fact that it was wrongly claimed that Jonathan Agudaña was discriminated because of her sexual orientation, this case brought to light that gender expression is a human rights issue.

The Marriage of Esperanza Martinez-Widener

This is a story of the obstacles people who are truly and deeply in love are willing to go through in order to fight for their love and their right to be together.

Prior to 2007, there had been a number of successful court petitions for a legal change of sex in the Philippines (All of the cases involved post-op transsexual women). One of them was the petition of Esperanza Martinez. On the 7th of July 2001, Esperanza married her long-time American boyfriend, Jacob Allen Widener, in a civil wedding in Manila.

The case was highly celebrated. This prompted Congressman Ruffy Biazon to file a bill in Congress to limit marriage between “naturally born male and naturally born female”. The bill contained highly questionable definitions of male and female. Moreover, in the bill’s introduction, Mr Biazon unapologetically compared marrying a transsexual woman to a buying a fake signature shirt. Thanks to the efforts of LGBT activists, the bill didn’t pass in Congress.

The challenge to the Widener’s didn’t end there. When Jacob filed a petition for immigration visa for Esperanza, the Nebraska Service Center of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services denied the petition, citing the Defense of Marriage Act definition of marriage.

The Service Center said that although “some states and countries have enacted laws that permit a person who has undergone sex change surgery to legally change the person’s sex from one to the other, but that [US] Congress has not addressed the issue… without legislation from Congress, it lacked a legal basis on which to recognize a change of sex so that a marriage between two persons born of the same sex could be recognized for immigration purposes.” Hence, the Service Center concluded that the marriage between Esperanza and Jacob was “invalid for immigration purposes.”

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The case was appealed to the Executive Office for Immigration Review of the U.S. Department of Justice. On the 21st of September 2004, the Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the decision of the Nebraska Service Center. It honoured the Philippine certificate of marriage which reflected an opposite-sex marriage.

The Birth of Transgender-led Support & Advocacy Groups in the Philippines: STRAP and C.O.L.O.R.S.

STRAP was founded in December 2002 by four transpinays (Filipino transsexual women), in Seattle’s Best Coffee Shop in a mall in Metro Manila. It was formed to address the need for an organization that would address the issues, needs, and concerns of transsexual/transgender Filipinos and to raise public awareness on issues of gender identity and expression, as well as to promote a compassionate understanding of transsexualism. During that time, STRAP was known as the “Society of Trans & Gender Rights Advocates of the Philippines”. STRAP was the first transgender support and rights advocacy group in the Philippines at that time.

It became active for a few years but became dormant because of lack of membership and its founders became more focused on the demands of their personal lives. In early 2005, two of its founders, Veronica and Sass, were featured by ICON LGBT Magazine after its editor received a complaint from a subscriber about the magazine’s silence on transgender issues. The subscriber turned out to be Dee, another founder of STRAP. The exposure the feature article gave to STRAP resulted to inquiries about how to join the organization. This led to the revival of STRAP on 20 May 2005. Two significant changes happened at that time: first, the founders thought it was best and less taxing if the group would focus on transsexual women; and second, it changed the name of the organization to “Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines.”

STRAP mixes the format of being a support group and an activist organization, and have had three Chairwomen already. It has now grown from having an initial four members to almost a hundred members.

If Manila has STRAP, Cebu City, another major city in the Philippines, has COLORS. In 2006, the Coalition for the Liberation of the Reassigned Sex or COLORS was originally conceptualized as a campus-based organization in Cebu City. However, COLORS was not recognized as a registered school organization. Four years later, COLORS was formalized and the first election was held.

COLORS aims to establish a united, strong, and empowered transgender community that nurtures to their well-being and welfare and rebuild a discrimination-free and equal society.
COLORS and STRAP are both transgender women groups. Up to this time, there is no known transgender men groups in the Philippines. I hope that in the next decade we will witness the emergence of these groups and that our Filipino transmen brothers will join us in our quest to having a Philippine society that upholds, protects, and advances the rights of transgender Filipinos.

The inclusion of gender identity in the Anti-Discrimination Bill and its Almost Victory

When it was first filed during the 12th Congress in 2001 by then Akbayan Party List Representative Etta Rosales (who is now the Chair of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights), the Anti-Discrimination Bill (House Bill 2784) only sought to address discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Several activists, including myself, pointed out the need to include “gender identity” in the language of the bill. The bill was revised, and I was present during the brainstorming of its revision in the office of Amnesty International-Philippines in May 2002. The revised bill (HB 6416) was re-filed in 2003. It was renamed as “The Act Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Providing Penalties Thereof.”

It was referred to the House Committee on Civil, Political and Human Rights. During the public hearing of the bill, several groups were invited to give their views about HB 6416. The military and the Catholic Church were the vocal opponents of the bill. But surprisingly, Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) supported the bill. INC didn’t attend the public hearing but sent a communique saying that though they don’t approve of homosexuality they nevertheless support their human rights. In December 2003, the bill was approved by the Committee for second reading.

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In legislative processes, 2nd Reading is the toughest stage. It’s there where debates for and against are held, as well as amendments are suggested. You may expect that HB 6416 provoked strong opposition. The opposite happened. However strong the Catholic Church position was, no one stood to bark their dogma. You read it right – NO ONE. Because there were no objections, the Speaker of the House Representative Gonzales motioned for the approval of the bill. The bill was unanimously approved in less than 30 minutes – this is not an exaggeration.

After six days, the 3rd Reading of the bill took place. Just like the 2nd reading no one objected. Again, you read it right: The 118 Congressmen present during the 3rd Reading voted UNANIMOUSLY for the bill.

After the 3rd Reading, the bill was supposed to undergo the same process in the senate. However it didn’t make it because the 2004 National Election happened. The bill just landed on the accomplishment report of the 12th Congress of the Philippines.

The 12th Congress approval of the Anti-Discrimination Bill didn’t carry over the 13th Congress. It was re-filed by Rep. Rosales as House Bill 634, and had its first reading on 28 July 2004. A month after, Senator Bong Revilla filed a similar bill in the senate, the Senate Bill 1738 or the Anti-Gender Discrimination Act. It had its first reading on 21 September 2004.

Thirteen proved to be unlucky for the Anti-Discrimination Bill. It was blocked twice by the Chairman of the House Committee on Civil, Political, and Human Rights, Representative Bienvenido Abante. He blocked the 2nd Reading both on October 13 and November 14, 2006. And on November 20, 2006, he delivered the highly polemic speech that was never heard in the 12th Congress. Now the dogma was barked. His cheerleaders were various religious groups who were all fearing that the approval of this bill might be the Pandora’s Box of Same-Sex Marriage.

“God created only two genders – male and female. And both in the Bible and the Q’uran, homosexuality and lesbianism are sins and abominations unto Almighty God,” was Mr Abante’s message. Aroused by this statement, Mr Abante’s cheerleaders orgasmically clapped in the House gallery.

In his answers to his interpolators, Mr Abante raised several times that “there is no general and widespread discrimination in private companies and corporations because the Constitution already prohibits discrimination so there is no need for the proposed law anymore.” He even claimed that he has an “effeminate” legislative staff whom “he loves and never discriminated”.
Several groups cried foul. The most prominent ones are the Lesbian and Gay Legislative Advocacy Network Philippines (LAGABLAB), Ang Ladlad Party List, Amnesty International-Philippines, and the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP).

The passage of the Anti-Discrimination Bill had once again became the theme of the Pride March. In 10 December 2006, several groups marched calling for the immediate passage of the bill. LAGABLAB called for the resignation of Rep. Abante.

We are now waiting for the re-filing of this bill. However, I reckon that the language of the bill should be revised and aligned to the language of the Yogyakarta Principles, specially the definition of sexual orientation and gender identity.

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 – The Rise of the Power Transpinays

Since 2001, as she was about to turn 19, Sass has dedicated herself to the LGBT Rights movement in the Philippines, most specifically to issues of gender identity and freedom of gender expression. James Green, an international transgender rights activist, served as her mentor via email. She started giving discussions on transgender rights and issues in Luneta Park in Manila. In December 2002, she co-founded the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP). In 2003 & 2004, together with Drs Sam Winter and Mark King of the University of Hong Kong, she did the first comprehensive study on transgender women in the Philippines. The study has been published in the International Journal of Transgenderism. In 2009, she was one of the LGBT activists invited to speak in a historic United Nations General Assembly side-event at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. In 2013, she received the ECHO Award, given annually to excellent and promising migrant students in the Netherlands. In 2014, she received the Harry Benjamin Distinguished Education and Advocacy Award from the World Profession Association for Transgender Health. A nomadic spirit, Sass loves to write, walk, read, cycle, and cook. Together with the love of her life, Sass is currently based in The Hague, The Netherlands. She graduated with a Combined major in World Politics & Global Justice, minor in International Development (Magna cum Laude) at Leiden University College, which bestowed her the 2014 Global Citizenship Award. She is a contributing writer on TG issues for the mag, through The Activist. Sass.Rogando.Sasot@outragemag.com

From the Editor

3 HIV-related questions (plus sub-questions) to ask re the PhilHealth scam

Every PLHIV is allocated P30,000 per year. As of April 2019, 37,091 PLHIVs are on treatment. Multiply that by P30,000 per person (per OHAT Package/coverage), and the amount involved here is P1,112,730,000. Too much money involved for us not to ask how the money is getting spent.

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Here are the facts:

  • As early as last year, two former employees of WellMed Dialysis Center already reported that it has been forging signatures of patients who have long died to file claims from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) from 2016-2018.
  • Typical in the Philippines (e.g. think of Napoles, PDAF, fertilizer scandal, et cetera), this was soon “forgotten” (or at least not as widely covered anymore particularly by mainstream media, so not gaining traction with the public). That is, until June, when the Philippine Daily Inquirer detailed the scam (again) via an investigative report.
  • Still in June, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would “reorganize” PhilHealth after the agency lost some P154 billion to “ghost” patients and deliveries.
  • WellMed Dialysis Center’s accreditation was (finally) withdrawn in June. But in a privilege speech, Sen. Panfilo Lacson alleged that PhilHealth continued to pay WellMed Dialysis Center even after its accreditation was suspended because of its involvement in a scam.
  • A hearing was started by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (chaired by Richard Gordon) to look at the allegations of corruption in the Department of Health (DoH), and – yes – PhilHealth.

Now why is this issue important to PLHIVs and those in the HIV advocacy in the Philippines?

Aside from the fact that there may be LGBTQIA Filipinos who may also be needing dialysis, the money that actually pays for the “free” treatment and antiretroviral medicines of Filipinos living with HIV come from PhilHealth.

No, darling, you don’t get “free” meds; a PLHIV is expected to enroll in PhilHealth before he/she can access the treatment. Meaning, YOU are paying for your treatment via your P2,400 (if voluntary) PhilHealth contribution. Anyone who tells you the meds are “free” is hiding the truth from you, or is outright lying to you.

READ:  Reach the people

And so the talk about stealing P154 billion should be an issue to PLHIVs and those serving them; particularly since it is not rare to encounter service providers who say that they can only offer shitty (and often lacking) TCS (treatment, care and support) services because there’s no money available (DUH!).

Every PLHIV is allocated P30,000 per year. As of April 2019, 37,091 PLHIVs are on treatment. Multiply that by P30,000 per person (per OHAT Package/coverage), and the amount involved here is P1,112,730,000.

Now off my head, here are a few questions that should also be asked as we tackle the PhilHealth scam (and questions that particularly touch on HIV in the Philippines).

1. Does PhilHealth monitor the use of the OHAT package, or they solely rely on reports that can – apparently, as the case of WellMed Dialysis Center highlighted – be faked/made up? Can individuals access the individual reports filed for them (on the use of their OHAT package)? If there’s none, why not? If these can be accessed, are there mechanisms to question the same?

These questions have to do with whether a PLHIV actually uses his/her allocation.

The Outpatient HIV/AIDS Treatment (OHAT) Package covers: drugs and medications; laboratory examinations based on the specific treatment guideline including Cluster of Differentiation 4 (CD4) level determination test, viral load (if warranted), and test for monitoring anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs toxicity; and professional fees of providers.

But in 2015, when interviewed by Outrage Magazine, PhilHealth’s Medical Specialist III and Millennium Development Goals Benefit Products Team Head Dr. Mary Antoinette Remonte said that “it has come to our attention that some treatment hubs charge for some laboratory tests, even after the release of the OHAT Package circular.” And so while the circular may specifically mention covered items, the same circular should not be taken too literally.

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For instance, VL is not included in the circular, but if a PLHIV needs “viral load, if it’s really needed, they can still charge it on the OHAT package. Any laboratory tests related to ART treatment, they can use the OHAT Package for it.” For Remonte, “even if viral load testing was not written in the first circular, it was already included in the coverage.”

2. The baseline tests are still not specified in the circular/OHAT Package. This is why many PLHIVs are lost to TCS – i.e. they are told to pay for their own tests (e.g. chest X-ray, CBC) before they can get their hands on the life-saving meds (the ARVs). Why is this idiotically still not included in the OHAT Package, and even knowing that (many) PLHIVs won’t end up consuming the P30,000 allocated them anyway?

3. Do they also withdraw the accreditation of treatment hubs/clinics/satellite clinics that claim the P30,000 even if they did not actually use the entire amount for the use of the PLHIV? Has there ever been a service provider that lost its accreditation because of non-delivery of services?

We have spoken with PLHIVs who were told to get lab tests outside of their treatment hubs (e.g. chest X-ray, VL, CD4 count); they were told to pay for the same. No, they may NOT use their OHAT Package for the same, a handful of them were told. They have to shell out their OWN money.

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The thing is, if these are already supposedly covered by PhilHealth, why the additional expenses? Who then benefits from the OHAT Package? The service providers not offering the services and yet getting the money? Isn’t this theft? And if one thinks so, what are the mechanisms for complaining? Are there any at all?

Let’s be blunt here: If these are not answered, here’s another avenue where profiteering is happening via PhilHealth, and at the expense of PLHIVs.

To end, let me state this to stress this: Every PLHIV is allocated P30,000 per year. As of April 2019, 37,091 PLHIVs are on treatment. Multiply that by P30,000 per person (per OHAT Package/coverage), and the amount involved here is P1,112,730,000.

Too much money involved and yet service providers still often saying “there’s no money” to help PLHIVs…

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Op-Ed

Looking beyond the ‘banyo’

With Gretchen Diez – after only a few days in the limelight – now claiming to be the “face of the LGBT movement”, Posit Bo says her narrative needs to be revisited. Particularly since, while there were procedural lapses, verbal abuse and negligence, he asks: Was there really discrimination if we try to look into the facts?

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Photo by @curology from Unsplash.com

In Toledo v. Hydenu (652 PHIL 70), the court stated that: He who comes into equity must come with a clean hands.

You have heard the word “discrimination” this week more than you may usually have heard it, at least in the previous months; that is, if  you fortunately haven’t experienced being discriminated. But what do  you know about discrimination?

The term is not exclusive to a particular: race, gender, religion, nor age. It is all encompassing. Discrimination does not discriminate. This is the very reason that necessitates the legislation of a more specific Anti-Discrimination Policy. A policy that should look and go beyond how it is being highlighted today, an issue of restroom usage.

When one person is rejected for employment by reason of SOGIE, that is discrimination in the workplace. When one is barred from enjoying a service by reason of SOGIE, that is discrimination in providing goods or rendering services. When one is prohibited from learning in a nonsectarian academic institution, that is discrimination in education. But when one is barred by reason of SOGIE in entering the female restroom, that is a multifaceted discussion.

While, every single public hearings and consultations can be attributed to the banyo incident, the debates have been constrained in the hallowed halls of Farmers Plaza restroom. There are more pressing issues related to SOGIE Equality Bill that is negligently missed amidst this discussion.

In using a specific individual as the face of SOGIE Equality Bill, the discussion hasn’t been substantiated by the pivotal provisions of the proposed law. The ‘star’ has been branded as your “Banyo Queen” since day one; but that’s on her, as she herself failed to elevate the discourse by repetitively echoing inequality in bathroom usage.

Be that as it may, let us thoroughly consider the facts of the matter, whether or not the banyo incident can be “the face of the LGBTQIA+ movement”.

You may see that this is a clear case of discrimination based on SOGIE in consideration of the given narrative by the complainant. Yes, there was a violation of the Gender Fair Ordinance of Quezon City as admitted by Farmers Plaza Management. The violation being their failure to provide a gender neutral restroom as required by the City Ordinance.

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But was there a discrimination based on SOGIE by verbal, nonverbal ridicule, and vilification or in rendering services?

First, the janitress is employed by an independent contractor and not by Farmers Plaza. There exist no relationship between the janitress and Farmers Plaza. Thus, the janitress is personally accountable for her actions;

Second, the janitress acted upon an aggression which was made and documented by the complainant herself but later deleted to better fit her narrative of an outright discrimination by the janitress. In the now deleted first Facebook live video, the complainant was nicely asked by the janitress to do two things, namely: (a) to use the male restroom instead of the female restroom acting upon an alleged complaint of female customers of Farmers Plaza, and (2)  to cease from the unauthorized recording of the janitress in doing her job in assisting mall clients on queue towards the restroom;

Third, the Facebook live videos while taken in plain sight of the public, it was still taken inside a privately owned vicinity which could be well regulated by policies of the owner and management e.g. video recording private individuals in the performance of their private employment; and

Fourth; in the deleted first Facebook live, the complainant voluntarily heeded by saying “ahh hmmm okay” in going to the security office with the janitress upon prior warning that she’ll be brought in the office for refusal to cease from the unauthorized documentation.

The complainant was brought into the security office not by reason of her SOGIE. She was escorted to the security office for failure to cease from her unauthorized recording. The verbal abuse as seen on the viral Facebook live was a retaliatory attack by the janitress after the complainant pried into the privacy of the former. Yes, the attack made by the janitress is inexcusable, but this wasn’t said and done on the basis of the complainant’s SOGIE.

If there wasn’t anything to hide, why was there a first Facebook live video deliberately deleted by the complainant? Why did the complainant only retain two videos that would fit her narrative of SOGIE-related discrimination? Why, Miss Complainant?

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The apprehension of the complainant by police officers from QCPD station 7 was an arrest made based on their knowledge of a crime which has been committed by the complainant. The complaint charged and that was latter dropped was unjust vexation against the janitress. Again, the arrest was not by reason of the complainant’s SOGIE but by her actions after she was reprimanded by the janitress outside the CR. This does not, however, excuse the police officers from their failure to take the complainant’s statements immediately after her apprehension.

When the community came to rescue Miss Complainant from being locked behind bars, the charges for unjust vexation against her were dropped by the janitress; because at that time, she had an instantaneous realization that her actions were inexcusable. A settlement was made, that was what they said. But three days later, on the day Miss Complainant filed her case against Farmers Plaza, she mentioned about the possible filing of appropriate charges against the janitress. Apparently, the settlement was onerous for the janitress rather than being reciprocal for both parties. This scenario speak volumes of the status quo of our human rights in the Philippines.

Certainly, there were procedural lapses, verbal abuse, and negligence; but there wasn’t any form of discrimination, only if we try to look into the matter of facts. The complainant, janitress, and QCPD Station 7 are all accountable for their action or inaction. This is a story which must be appreciated fully by examining all the possible sides without favoring one over another because of our personal biases. This must be a learning experience for all the parties that are involved. But must not be used to advance one interest at the expense of another.

Posit Bo: “The LGBTQIA+ community does not need a face that epitomizes lack of knowledge and understanding of the cause. The community does not need to represented by an individual who anchors her cause in magnifying her story alone; because this movement is more than one story, that transcends from one generation to another.”

After the incident, you have seen traditional politicians rallying behind the complainant, as she declares, LGBTQIA+ rights as human rights. The public had to unconsciously endure the pain of seeing supporters of a human rights violator rally behind Miss Complainant. LGBTQIA+ rights and human rights are not mutually exclusive. While supporting LGBTQIA+ rights as human rights, these politicians should know that they must concede in supporting the call against the lowering of criminal liability and the re-imposition of death penalty; because, these two issues are also human rights-related.

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There are other mechanisms that will advance and promote the discussion of SOGIE in the country without the need of being used by different organizations and political parties. This is a nonpolitical issue that needs to be dealt through an appropriate social legislation rather than by politicking. Using the LGBTQIA+ community in politicizing our own cause must, at all cost, end now! This community is more than your number of votes that you use at your convenience. The LGBTQIA+ community should refuse being treated as dispensables, simply because we are not!

The LGBTQIA+ community does not need a face that epitomizes lack of knowledge and understanding of the cause. The community does not need to represented by an individual who anchors her cause in magnifying her story alone; because this movement is more than one story, that transcends from one generation to another.

The true face of the LGBTQIA+ community is more than one individual; because, you are not alone. No, not one individual and organization can take credit of the cause. After-all, this is the LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY, no one should be left behind neither should anyone be one step ahead of everyone. There may be several groups with different perspective; but bound by a single community sharing a communal interest that is the SOGIE Equality Bill.

People should start learning how to dissociate their self-vested interest from the advocacy. While one voice can be used to uproar the passing of SOGIE Equality Bill, the voice must also be admonished if it doesn’t reflect the majority of the community. The voice must be silenced when it still continues to purvey false advocacy. If this is not done, the noble cause will be tainted. SOGIE Equality Bill must not in anyway be used to place one person on the spotlight for all the wrong reasons; let us not tolerate.

While the discussion has been fueled by the banyo incident, this urgently needs to get out of the banyo before it even stinks and splatters at the expense of the LGBTQIA+ advocacy. It is time that we hear the genuine and unheard stories of SOGIE-based discrimination.

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Op-Ed

Your discomfort over our human rights?

Naomi Fontanos tackles the othering of members of the LGBTQIA community, often justified with making prejudiced/bigoted people more “comfortable”.

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By Naomi Fontanos

Ang ipilit na ang di pagiging komportable ng mga kababaihan (o kalalakihan man) sa presensya ng mga trans woman sa loob ng pampublikong palikuran para sa babae ang kailangang manaig sa usapin na ito ay isang uri ng diskriminasyon.

Lahat ng uri ng diskriminasyon ay nag-uugat sa ganitong pag-iisip: di-komportable ang mga puti sa mga itim o kayumanggi ang balat, kaya’t ang karapatan ay para lamang sa mga puti; di-komportable ang mga walang kapansanan sa mga may kapansanan, kaya’t ang karapatan ay para lamang sa mga walang kapansanan; di-komportable ang mga mayayaman sa mahihirap, kaya’t ang karapatan ay para lamang sa mga mayayaman; di-komportable ang mga kristiyano sa mga di-kristiyano, kaya’t ang karapatan ay para lamang sa mga kristiyano, at noong sinaunang panahaon, di-komportable ang mga lalaki sa mga babae, kaya’t ang mga karapatan ay para lamang sa mga lalaki.

Nguni’t nagbabago ang lipunan kasama ng pag-uunawa ng tao na hindi wasto na sabihing di tayo komportable kaya’t tama lang na walang karapatan ang mga di puti ang balat, mga may kapansanan, mahihirap, di-kristiyano at kababaihan.

Sa gitna ng usaping ito ay ang prehudisyo/prehuwisyo o ang di-makatwirang paniniwala tungkol sa mga taong LGBTIQ+ na nag-dudulot ng sistematiko at istruktural na pang-iiba at pang-mamata at di-pantay na pagtrato sa atin.

Ang akusahan ang mga trans woman na manyak, namboboso, nambabastos, at gagawa ng karahasang sekswal laban sa mga kababaihan sa loob ng palikuran ay manipestasyon ng prehuwisyong ito.

At ito ang dapat nating tutulan at i-wasto bilang basehan ng pampublikong patakaran o ng pakikitungo natin sa isa’t isa bilang tao.

Naomi Fontanos heads Gender and Development Advocates (GANDA) FIlipinas, a human rights organization that promotes the dignity and equality of transgender people in the Philippines and beyond.

READ:  Reach the people

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Op-Ed

Why sex segregated toilets don’t make sense

We don’t sex segregate bathrooms at home, we shouldn’t need to anywhere else. Toilets can be safe for everybody as long as they are in a well-lit public location.

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By Chase Tolentino

This article first appeared in Transgender Philippines; published with permission from the author.

You may have heard about Gretchen Diez, a trans woman, who was barred from entering the women’s restroom at Farmers Plaza, Araneta Center, Cubao last August 13, 2019. The janitor at the mall illegally detained, physically and verbally abused, and humiliated her all because she wanted to exercise a very basic human right – to relieve herself in the toilet.

These issues could have been diminished by the SOGIE Equality Bills filed in the Senate and House of Representatives by Risa Hontiveros and Geraldine Roman, respectively.

Why do we sex segregate toilets?

People usually state safety, cleanliness, and myths as reasons. But let’s be real.

It can’t be to prevent men from looking at women’s genitals and to prevent women from looking at men’s genitals because no one is looking at genitals in the restroom. And even if someone was, stalls prevent you from seeing people go about their business. The purpose is certainly not to prevent predators from entering the restroom because no unlocked door and sex symbol stamped on that door is going to prevent a sexual pervert from entering.

And men aren’t inherently dirty, but we as a society allow them to be because we think it’s normal. Men can be as clean as women if we taught boys to be as conscious about cleanliness as we do girls. Men can see the mess – they just aren’t judged as harshly for it as women are.

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To the uneducated, there’s also the myth that since sperm come out with men’s urine, if a man urinates on a toilet seat and a woman sits on it, she will surely get pregnant. This is a myth that just won’t die.

We don’t sex segregate bathrooms at home, we shouldn’t need to anywhere else. Toilets can be safe for everybody as long as they are in a well-lit public location.

Problems created by sex segregated toilets

  • It causes businesses more money to build and maintain than all user toilets
  • Promulgates irrational fears and labels men as predatory by nature
  • It prevents parents with opposite sex children from entering a restroom comfortably with their child (I have seen women berating mothers with male children for bringing them into the women’s restroom.)
  • It prevents carers and their opposite sex patients from entering a restroom comfortably
  • It prevents transgender people from entering a restroom without fear of discrimination and humiliation
  • It prevents intersex people with sex characteristics that differ from the binary from entering a restroom without fear of discrimination and humiliation

Why we should have all user toilets

  • It costs less to build for businesses
  • It’s friendly for parents with opposite sex children
  • It’s friendly for carers and their patients
  • It’s friendly for transgender people
  • It’s friendly for intersex people
  • Actually it’s just friendly for everybody!

Now the issue businesses may have when they already have sex segregated toilets is that they would have to spend to renovate their bathrooms or to build a gender neutral bathroom but there are actually many solutions where the only cost is a few new signs.

  • Designating all sex segregated restrooms as all user restrooms
  • Designating some sex segregated restrooms as all user restrooms
  • Designating restrooms as “Restrooms with urinals” and “Restrooms with stalls”
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And let’s not forget that there should always be a restroom for PWDs and senior citizens.

This will work

Many places have adopted all user toilets and while there is an initial shock for first time users from areas without them, they have been generally accepted without major incident.

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Editor's Picks

5 Ways to #ResistTogether after #Pride

Be constantly reminded that #Pride is never (just) about partying. It’s about the ongoing struggle for the human rights of LGBTQIA people (no mater what sector they may be part of).

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ALL PHOTOS TAKEN DURING METRO MANILA PRIDE PARADE 2019

A few days into July, after the June Pride month, I was chatting with someone from Grindr; he boasted that he was at the “essence of pride: the Pride parade” (his words, not mine). The chat revolved around shaming, particularly of other LGBTQIA people; that now that the one-day celebration is over, things (including his way of “booking”) are “just back to normal.”

See… right after the “very proud” placement of the #ResistTogether hashtag in his pick-up account (particularly while he was in Marikina City), it has been refreshed, reverting back to claiming “NO chubs; NO oldies; NO femmes. Don’t dare me, I have unliblock.”

This got me thinking about this “brand” of exclusivist #Pride; and how we should instead be making (and continuing to make) it inclusive…

And so – off my head – here are five ways to #ResistTogether after the #Pride parade…

1. Stop the shaming from within the LGBTQIA community.

Change should start from within our community; and this can happen if our community members become more aware that – frequently – hatred starts from within.

Stop shaming the “oldies”; we’d all grow old.

Stop shaming the “chubs”; ALL bodies are beautiful.

Stop hating on the femmes; every gender expression is VALID.

Stop discriminating against sex workers; there is no shame in trying to make a living.

Our community is minority, as it is. Stop creating more minorities from within our community with your biases.

2. Donate… not just because you want merchs.

I get this concept of “what’s in it for me?”. This is the “driver” of so many of our actions – e.g. if companies give money to “support” Pride, they expect to get media mileage from it; and if we give money to “make Pride happen”, we may as well have that sticker (or whatever) to prove that… yes, we gave money.

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But helping should be done not because of any return; it should be done because it’s the right thing to do.

And so if/when someone asked you to donate (however small the amount may be) to help establish an actual home for senior LGBTQIA Filipinos, give.

If someone asked you to chip in (no matter how small the amount you can give) to help pay for the PhilHealth of a person living with HIV, give.

And if someone asked you to donate (whatever amount) to help finance the picket line of LGBTQIA workers who were illegally dismissed from their jobs after they (rightfully) asked to be made regular employees, give.

LGBTQIA-related issues happen EVERY DAY of the year, not just in June. So if you’re willing to cough up cash to look glamorous/fab ONLY in June, you should also be willing to do so the rest of the year…

3. Be the voice of other minorities.

This shouldn’t be a divisive issue, but it is becoming that – i.e. the supposed “hijacking of commies of Pride month” by highlighting other issues that those who complain say have nothing to do with the LGBTQIA community.

These issues include: contractualization, wage hike, extra-judicial killings, war on drugs, and so on.

Here’s the BASIC thing though: LGBTQIA people do not live in a vacuum. Some of us are contractual workers (e.g. LGBTQIA people working for – say – Zagu, or Jollibbee, or the baggers in department stores). Many of us LGBTQIA people do not get the wages we deserve (e.g. LGBTQIA people who are also nurses and teachers). There are LGBTQIA people also killed because they were allegedly involved in the drug trade; and this is even if the claim may be true or not.

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We say that LGBTQIA people are EVERYWHERE. Well, WE ARE; including among other minority sectors.

So that we can’t separate THEIR issues from OUR issues.

4. Be seen the rest of the year.

You, like many others, helped create the noise for LGBTQIA issues during Pride month. That’s all good (and thank you, truly, for this). But please, please don’t disappear after June (or worse, don’t be the source of discrimination after June – as noted in #1).

If you can’t be bothered leaving your desk, that’s your call; but continue making noise for the LGBTQIA community.

But if/when you are able to/you are keen to, join the ongoing struggle for our total liberation – e.g. join the call for rally for the anti-discrimination bill, attend gatherings pushing for marriage equality, attend events of LGBTQIA-related NGOs (including HIV-related events), physically support LGBTQIA-related shows/productions/et cetera.

Just BE SEEN BEYOND JUNE; it matters a lot.

5. Go back to the streets… and not just to party.

So you had fun attending the parade; perhaps even more so when you attended the after-parade party/ies. That’s all good. Not one to miss out on fun, I am one with you here…

BUT be reminded that #Pride is never (just) about partying. It’s about the ongoing struggle for the human rights of LGBTQIA people (no mater what sector they may be part of).

After almost 20 (THAT’S 20!) years, the anti-discrimination bill is still languishing in Congress.
Over 80% of the new HIV cases in the Philippines affect members of the LGBTQIA community (particularly gay, bi and trans people).

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Schools (including State-owned/run) still discriminate against LGBTQIA students; a handful of them barring LGBTQIA students from enroling/attending classes because of some bloody haircut or because of what they are wearing.

Because of their HIV status, people living with HIV (many of them LGBTQIA) are: still fired from work; kicked out of their homes; or not given access to life-saving HIV medicines.

LGBTQIA informal settlers – along with hetero-identifying informal settlers – are kicked out of their homes.

LGBTQIA contractual workers are still not regularized.

So – let’s state this – IF THERE IS A CALL TO RALLY FOR OUR RIGHTS, not just a call to parade and party, TAKE HEED. If 70,000+++ people can gather to parade and party, surely the same number (if not more) should also be able to gather when a call is made for us to rise again together to push for equality.

Yes, we have taken progressive steps (corporations are even considering how to profit off us now); but so much still needs to be done. And – to stress- we need to always show our force; to always take to the streets to highlight our issues.

So party on, yes; but never stop fighting as one. This is how we continue to truly #ResistTogether.

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From the Editor

6 Reasons why your ‘pride’ isn’t (necessarily) every LGBTQIA person’s Pride…

Michael David Tan: “We may need budget to pay for the expenses incurred to hold pride-related events; but if we need approximately P1 million to hold a half-day event, and then disappear the entire year (seemingly forgetting the struggles still experienced by members of the LGBTQIA community after claiming we ‘represent’ them), then that’s NOT what pride is supposed to be.”

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Photo by Jasmin Sessler from Unsplash.com

“Make pride happen. Give money.”

That – in not so many words – is what LGBTQIA “pride” has become. And here, we don’t have to look (only) at Western versions of what Pride has become; we just have to consider Metro Manila’s.

Now, now, now, before you hate-click; before you fume with anger for being “attacked”; before you start complaining that those who are complaining “just don’t get it; they’re just getting old”; before you start unfriending those who do not belong in your echo chamber/s, hear some of the counter-arguments why YOUR ‘pride’ (or your concept of it) is no longer every LGBTQIA person’s Pride…

1. When pride organizers party with non-supporters (or even abusers) of members of the LGBTQIA community, or those that are in it just to profit off us because… money and/or fame and/or convenience and/or they’re all in the same “in” group/social circle.

In the Philippines, that LGBTQIA national “conference” that was really just a political tool of a former presidentiable comes to mind. But so is that blind support of pride organizers of this venue in Cubao, where many members of the LGBTQIA community alleged that they were harassed and molested. And so are companies/people who only surface supposedly for us only once a year, but are nowhere to be seen the rest of the year…

This approach has turned this “pride” into a hobnobbing event, helmed by those who have access to powers-that-be (e.g. media, donors, advertisers, et cetera)…

2. When your pride “leaders” claim to represent you, but are not accountable to you.

If, in the past (such as in the case of Task Force Pride in the Philippines), it was the community that decided who would helm Pride, the model has now changed to NGOism with an eye on earning (seemingly without even intending to effect REAL changes anymore since – as noted already – those who turn up for pride do not turn up to push for the passage of the anti-discrimination bill anyway).

I challenge you to listen and hear speakers talk about Lumads/Indigenous Peoples, Muslims, PWDs, seniors, and so on… Great crowd-rousers and sources of newsbytes when delivering speeches, actually; but that’s all they have become. Aside from the so-called (once-a-year) visibility, what has this version of “pride” done (in practical sense) to these communities being mentioned?

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3. When it’s now all about merchs; all of them using nice-sounding hashtags claiming we’re supposedly all in this together.

Did you know that, for 2019, “the total we need to mount the March and Festival is PHP990,050”?

Not surprisingly, we have this in this year’s organizer’s fundraising site: “Donate ₱5000.00 Or More” and get “I Made Pride Happen Sticker, Resist Together Sticker, I Made Pride Happen Pin, I Made Pride Happen Tote Bag, Resist Together Cap and I Made Pride Happen Shirt.”

When you can’t even donate P50 to help the Home for the Golden Gays establish a REAL, physical space for senior members of the LGBTQIA community; or won’t even give P100 to help feed LGBTQIA workers who are holding rallies after they were dismissed from work; or can’t even give a peso even as your token help to Lumad LGBTQIA people who – like other Indigenous Peoples – are fighting to keep their ancestral domains. You have to ask if “pride” – for you – is really just an excuse to party, instead of fighting for the human rights of everyone under the rainbow…

4. When “pride” is a “by-invite” only gathering…

It’s a free event, you say. And in a way it is. But NOT EVERYONE has access to it, or is even made to access it.

In a past pride event in the City of Manila (years and years ago), the attendees were told to leave the venue (where the program was held), only to be allowed back in the same (now gated) venue, though this time with payment already…

Recently, there was an ad from a restaurant that said that it is hosting a “pride” party, so “buy tickets now”…

And don’t get me started with “after parade events” – e.g. in Western countries, accessible only after you pay moolah; and here, via by-invite only parties for the organizers who (apparently) still have spare money to spend to party, party, party…

Also, in modern “pride” events, note who gets to decide who helms “pride”. It’s people belonging to the same close-knit circle (i.e. the “echo chamber), easily disposing those who “don’t think like them”. In this sense, “pride” isn’t exactly inclusive…

At least according to some LGBTQIA people I spoke with, one of the biggest “fears” of some LGBTQIA people who (also) supported Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency if they choose to attend “pride” was their “othering” by the organizers who support the opposition. This is why they choose NOT to go to “pride” anymore; when they are not even given opportunity to air their side, while the “leaders” take every opportunity to tell them (self-righteously) that only they are always right and should be allowed to stay in power…

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In this sense, “pride” is also a “tool” to segregate “them” versus “us”, even if we supposedly belong to the same LGBTQIA community…

Similarly, check the data mining happening so that the organizers can use your info to: A) get money off you, or B) “sell” the same to get money off you…

5. When we are blindsided by the glam and forget we’re being used.

Bench has been criticized for not supporting Ang Ladlad in the past; and yet is (for lack of better word) milking the rainbow to sell goods now. But Bench isn’t alone here, there are so many companies that slap the rainbow on their goods to make LGBTQIA people buy their goods, but don’t do shit to help: their LGBTQIA people staff, and the LGBTQIA community as a whole.

Start asking: Where is the money you are spending (supposedly for “pride”) going?

Check, too, the number of brands suddenly using the rainbow to promote themselves. But just how many actually give money back to the LGBTQIA community particularly in the Philippines (and I’m not just talking sponsoring the one-day parade)?

Still on a related note, we also have supporters who – again, let’s be blunt here – should also be asked the hard question, e.g. Catriona Gray is definitely fabulous for supporting us (she deserves the love she’s getting), but premised on her push/support for @sanmiglight, and this alcoholic brand’s silence re alcoholism (that affects the LGBTQIA community), shouldn’t we also be asking the link between the two? No, you don’t have to not support one just because you oppose the other; you just have to START ASKING THE HARD QUESTIONS…

6. When the concept of “pride” is packed just in June, with the people behind it disappearing the entire year, as if the LGBTQIA community’s issues ceased to exist after the throwing of the glitter bombs via the parade and festivities.

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Jennifer Laude was murdered in October (2014). Not even two weeks later, Mary Joy Añonuevo was stabbed at least 33 times all over her body at her bar in Lucena City (also in October 2014). Bunny Cadag claimed Jollibee discriminated against them in August (2017). Claire Balabbo was dismissed – along with 96 contractual employees – by Tanduay Distillers Inc. in Cabuyao, Laguna in May (2015). And Dats Ventura has been fighting for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, including LGBTQIA Lumads, every day of the year…

The push – and even celebration of – Pride should be done EVERY DAY.

Because the issues involving members of our community still remain after we’re bombarded by glamorous – and well-funded – “pride” events/happenings. Worse, these issues seemingly remain untouched/unsolved EVEN WITH the “pride” events.

Let me say that every time someone says, “Make Pride happen. Give money.”, they’re really just asking you to fund them/their lifestyles.

Because Pride WILL happen with or without the cash (and the selling out because of it); that’s how the riot in Stonewall Inn started in 1969.

In 2014, during WorldPride in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Angie Umbac – former executive director of Rainbow Rights Project, Inc. – was asked about the “struggle” between “pride as a struggle” and “pride as a commercial celebration.”

She said that Pride is always a struggle between the political and the cultural. For many, when they start, it’s always just political; but then, eventually, sponsors come in and at times dictate Pride’s direction.

But “this is how I see it: Pride belongs to everyone… But if you have a cultural pride without the background of why we are having pride, then we would lose the message. Keep it balanced – stay corporate because you need the funds, but remember that in the beginning it was political, and it was political for a reason.”

Nowadays, we may need budget to pay for the expenses incurred to hold pride-related events; but if we need approximately P1 million to hold a half-day event, and then disappear the entire year (seemingly forgetting the struggles still experienced by members of the LGBTQIA community after claiming we “represent” them), then that’s NOT what pride is supposed to be…

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