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Op-Ed

What if?

As 2012 ends, and the new year starts, Rev. Richard R. Mickley, CDOS, OSAe, Ph.D. considers “what if” things turned out differently.

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What if? What if we could spend Christmas thanking the God of caring and compassion that we have a new Reproductive Health Law in the Philippines? Thank you, God. Thank you, bold legislators. It was not a battle against the Roman Catholic Church. Lord, it was a move toward Your justice, Your Love, Your compassion.

And Senator Soto is obstructing the Conference Committee to reconcile the passed Senate and House bills. What if?

If we look around, what do we see? What if we look honestly at the cold, hard, uncaring, uncompassionate milieu of our world, notwithstanding the world-wide and impressive outpouring of support for the people of Newtown? What if we open our eyes to the injustice sprayed from invisible and visible automatic weapons around the world?

The emotion that President Aquino and President Obama expressed after the Connecticut massacre was admirable and thought-provoking.

What if they would recognize and be moved by and make pledges in behalf of the killings of 265 transgender people in 2012 alone (plus all the other years before)?

Where were they in November when the friends of transgender people mourned the 265 transgender victims of 2012?

The “Memorial Booklet” of GANDA Filipinas, the transgender advocates, lists the 265 “names” and recounts the grisly stories of their deaths – guns, guns, guns and burning, hanging, stoning, slashing, stabbing, throat cutting, strangling, beating, cutting the body into pieces, drowning, decapitation, buried alive.

“Each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people…[yet] even now deaths based on violence based on anti-transgender hatred or prejudice are largely ignored.”

My friend, what if? What if the world would mourn and act upon the senseless brutal slaughter of 265 innocent transgender people – as they so rightfully did for the insane killings of 20 innocent children and their hero teachers in Connecticut?

What if? What if President Aquino and President Obama would have attended the November “Day of Remembrance” …”which publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through this vigil we express our love and respect for our people in the face of [inter]national indifference and hatred, [remembering] that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends, and lovers…memorializing those of us who have died by anti-transgender violence.”

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Similarly what if they would have been awakened by the senseless murder of my friend Ito?

Now surely it is time to look at gun control. But what about “violence control”? Is mourning our brutally killed loved ones enough? What about action?

One action that has been languishing in the Congress longer than the RH Bill is the Anti-Discrimination Bill that penalizes behavior that discriminates against LGBT people.

All these years the members of the Congress have been shaking in their boots, quivering in fear of retaliation from those who hate condoms and would rather see people suffer and die.

Lord, thank you, I pray, that a majority of our legislators got the guts to give the people more importance than a church’s hatred of condoms. It’s so ironic, Lord — a church which claims to be Your church, which preaches love and practices prejudice and violence toward women and LGBT people.

Yes, deplorably, that’s what they do to LGBT people every day, every decade. Fr. John McNeil (SJ) tried to combat the prejudice from within. They rewarded him with expulsion. Jesus said, “Love.” Yet they influence people like Pacquiao to say, “Let them die.”

Yes, the Philippines is a non-violent culture. But today’s editorial in the Inquirer says something like, “slow down. Don’t forget the Ampatuan mass slaughter which is having such a slow trial now.”

What about more “subtle” violence in our culture? What about the religious violence, the societal violence, the cuddling, the promoting of a culture of hate and violence toward LGBT people?

What if? What if the president, the congress and the people –- is it unimaginable? – what if they would love and respect women who love women and men who love men? And stop the violence? What if? Would it stop or slow down the suicides, murders, firings, evictions, senseless hate and hate crimes?

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If the murders of 265 transgender people will not bring a tear to the world,
— what will?

The ecumenical church service that President Obama attended in Newtown was wonderful. We saw arm in arm, literally, Catholic and Muslim ministers, Protestant, Jewish, Anglican, B’Hai, Methodist, – arm in arm – praying and mourning together. It was impressive.

What if? What if they would unite for love and justice for LGBT people?

What if?

In the meantime in the Philippines we have five Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) and Catholic Diocese of One Spirit who preach and practice, not only ecumenical unity, but who follow and teach Jesus’ example of love and justice for all.

And that is especially for the marginalized, like Jesus did. He loved to make the marginalized, the hated Samaritans, heroes of his stories, such as the “Good Samaritan.” YET, that was in direct contradiction to the cultural practice of His “church” at the time.

Thank you, lawmakers who voted “yes.” You followed the example of Jesus – who put justice and the “right” first rather “wrong” practiced by His “church.”

What if? What if society would follow the example of the Way of Jesus – rather than the way of hate and prejudice?

Our society could happily take a look at the way of Jesus with regard to another marginalized people in our society.

What if? What if you and I, our neighbors, our friends, and yes, our church, our whole society would stop chasing to the underground (a hidden life) people who have a certain virus.

My God, what did Jesus consistently do about the “sick” people in his life? The lame, the blind, the lepers? And what does our society do to people who have HIV? Stigma!!! Internet paints this picture:

Social stigma is the extreme disapproval of, or discontent with, a person on the grounds of characteristics that distinguish them from other members of a society. Stigma may attach to a person, who differs from social or cultural norms.

Social stigma can result from the perception or attribution, rightly or wrongly, of mental illness, physical disabilities, diseases such as leprosy (see leprosy stigma),[1] illegitimacy, sexual orientation, gender identity[2] skin tone, nationality, ethnicity, religion (or lack of religion[3][4]) or criminality. Attributes associated with social stigma often vary depending on the geopolitical and corresponding sociopolitical contexts in different parts of the world.”

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Society does THAT to LGBT people every day. God forbid that LGBT people would join society in doing THAT to persons with HIV!

I even heard of a cemetery that refused to bury a person with HIV so as “not to contaminate the cemetery.” My God, science has told us that we can drink from the same cup, eat from the same fork? Why does this hate, stigma, fear, and nonsense continue. Why does it drive so many to close the doors of their homes and their hearts?

What if? What if society would follow the authentic example of the Love of Jesus (instead of inventing pseudo ways of hate and prejudice which are a mockery of Jesus by those pretending to follow His way)? Would an authentic follower of Jesus really practice “selective justice” or “selective caring” or “selective compassion”? Some get it; some don’t.

A step has been made in the fearless passage of the RH Law. The hate churches surely will intensify their campaign to prevent any more laws which are pleasing to Jesus, but opposed by the church.

Speaker Belmonte has already announced the next arena. The Philippines and the Vatican are the only countries in the world which refuse their people the right to divorce. The Vatican is dominated by celibate priests, monsignors, bishops, cardinals and popes. They don’t have a problem with divorce for themselves – only divorce for people who need it. The people who need it are human beings who are human and have got stuck in a painful, shattering, perhaps destructive, unworkable marriage.

Every country recognizes that need except the Vatican and those who say “Opo” to the Vatican, that is, of course, the Philippine government in obedience to the Vatican’s bishops.

But what if?

Rev. Richard R. Mickley, CDOS, OSAe, Ph.D. is a Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, Philippines; and the Abbot of The Order of St. Aelred and St. Aelred Friendship Society. His snail mail is: 33-A Sta. Maria Street, Barrio Kapitolyo, 1603 Pasig City, Metro Manila. He may be reached at: (+63) 9209034909; or email: saintaelred@gmail.com.

Op-Ed

Tulungan ang bawat isa na magmulat at mas mamulat pa

Pastor Carleen Nomorosa: “Tulungan natin ang bawat isa na magmulat at mas mamulat pa. Huwag tayong mapako sa mga sarili lamang nating pagdurusa, magsama-sama tayo at magtulungan. Huwag din tayong malunod sa mga pribilehiyong tinatamasa dahil marami padin ang hindi ligtas.”

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By Carleen Nomorosa
Program Coordinator, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)

Isa sa mahal ko sa buhay, na-rape. Ng paulit-ulit.

Sabi ng isang ahensya ng gobyerno noon sa amin nung nagpapatulong kami: Mabuti nga at nakauwi pa ng buhay ang nanay mo.”

Wala pa akong sampung taong gulang noon, seven years old pa lang ako, panganay. Probinsyana. Walang alam sa siyudad. Litong-lito ako bakit ganoon.

Kaya umuwi na kami, at sinubukang hilumin ang lahat ng pait na pinagdanan, hindi lamang ng aking ina, kundi ng buong pamilya.

Ang lupit ng lipunang ito, sa mga mahihirap at walang kakayanan.

Sana tulungan nyo ang mga katulad namin, para lumaban at makapag patuloy sa paglaban.

Tulungan natin ang mga magulang nila Eileen at Allan, hindi lang para panatilihin ang sentensya ni Antonio Sanchez.

Kundi imulat din ang henerasyong ito sa kalagayan ng bayan. Huwag nating hayaang gawin tayong manhid sa lahat ng pagpatay sa mga dukha at maralita. Huwag nating hayaang magdiwang ang mga panginoong maylupa na nagpapahirap sa magsasaka. Huwag nating hayaan na manatiling kontrakwal ang mga ordinaryong manggagawa. Huwag nating hayaang may inaaping sektor dahil minorya sila. Huwag nating hayaang marami ang nagkakasakit ngunit hindi makapag pa-ospital.

Tulungan natin ang bawat isa na magmulat at mas mamulat pa. Huwag tayong mapako sa mga sarili lamang nating pagdurusa, magsama-sama tayo at magtulungan. Huwag din tayong malunod sa mga pribilehiyong tinatamasa dahil marami padin ang hindi ligtas.

Wala na tayong ibang aatrasan, kundi ang paglaban. Sana bukas wala ng rape. Wala ng papatayin. Wala ng gutom. Magtulungan tayo.

Ang pananampalatayang napapako na lamang sa pag-pikit, pagluhod o pagtaas ng kamay sa pananalangin ay hindi makakabangon sa ikatlong araw. Walang resureksyon and ganitong pananampalataya.

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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.

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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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Photo by Cody Chan from Unsplash.com

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.

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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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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.

READ:  Where’s the fire?

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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