Stories of discrimination at Senate hearing: ‘They keep happening’
MANILA, Philippines — “They [acts of discrimination] keep happening and yet after 19 years, the SOGIE Equality bill remains unpassed.”
A transgender rights advocate pointed this out on Tuesday’s Senate Committee on Women hearing on the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill after various tales of gender discrimination were shared by several victims.
Roi Galfo from the LGBTQ+ party-list group recalled how she was discriminated against and humiliated by a human resources officer when she tried to use a female restroom.
Galfo said that when she had earlier asked the HR department if she could use the women’s restroom if the one for persons with disabilities was unavailable, she received an affirmative answer.
“However, on the last day of my training after 25 days… I’m so late and I need to go to the bathroom, the disabled comfort room was locked. So since the ladies comfort room is just beside it, I have no choice I really can’t take it, I have to use it,” she recalled.
“A few minutes later, everyone’s attention was called,” she went on. “In front of all the call center agents, I was discriminated. Sabi pa nga no’ng HR personnel na nang-discriminate sa ’kin: ‘Mag-CR ka kung ano yong gender mo no’ng ipinanganak ka’.”
Galfo said she reached out to the Department of Labor and Employment but got no help.
She added that she even filed a complaint against the HR staff member who discriminated her but the cases remained pending.
“Waiting, pending at hindi sumisipot yung kinomplaint ko,” she said.
Galfo added that the recent incident involving Gretchen Diez, a transgender woman barred from using a women’s restroom in a Quezon City mall, brought back memories of her own ordeal in 2016.
“After a few years, nangyari ulit kay Gretchen, bumalik sakin ‘yong alaala ng trauma. Sabi ko sa sarili ko: ‘Ano ba ‘yan, nangyari na naman.’ Naalala ko ‘yong lahat, as in bumalik sa alaala ko ‘yong pag-discriminate sa akin na walang nangyari, sana may mangyari na this time,” she said.
“I just want to have equal rights,” she added.
Deg Daupan, another victim, said gender discrimination goes beyond the use of restrooms.
“The story of discrimination goes beyond bathrooms. It happens on the streets, it happens at home, at school at the workplace,” he said during the hearing.
Daupan said he experienced discrimination when he applied for a job last year. He said he was initially asked to introduce himself.
“The next question was: ‘Are you gay?’…It really made me nervous: Will this affect my chance of getting the job?” he recalled.
The interviewer then kept on pressing him about the matter.
“The interviewer further [asked]: ‘How gay are you?’ This time it was really disappointing,” he said.
“Di na ‘ko natuwa. So, I said: ‘I’m not liking this conversation anymore. I’m sorry but I have to leave because I felt disrespected, I felt discriminated…’ And the chance of getting the job was absolutely zero. I left his office and then wala, I didn’t hear anything,” he added.
Daupan said he filed a complaint against the interviewer but just like in Galfo’s case, nothing had happened.
Education vs uniform policy
Transgender rights advocates also shared some anecdotes from victims of gender discrimination.
Lawyer Jazz Tamayo, executive director of Rainbow Rights Project Inc., recounted various accounts of discrimination and violence experienced lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women in the hands of service providers duty bearers, parents, school personnel, among others
The stories were lifted from the findings of research released by Rainbow Rights Project Inc. in 2014 called “Kwentong Bebot.”
Tamayo shared the story of a transgender woman who was denied medical assistance.
“A transwoman was punched [and] bleeding in the hospital. She was laughed at by the medical staff and was left untreated,” Tamayo said.
She then recalled a different case involving another transgender woman who was gang-raped but instead of receiving assistance from police, she was “victimized” and “ridiculed.”
“[She] was asked by the police when she was reporting [the incident] if what happened to her ‘wasn’t exactly what she wanted as a gay man.’ In the reporting itself she was obviously victimized and ridiculed,” Tamayo said.
Tamayo also cited a Cagayan de Oro Regional Trial Court ruling in 2016 on a child abuse case involving a fourth grader.
She said the principal of the elementary school in Cagayan de Oro made the child wear school curtains “for failing to abide by uniform policy.”
“Despite the finding of a psychologist that the child suffered trauma…the judge later ruled that the child was too young to venture into a lifestyle of the gender identity that is different from that assigned at birth,” Tamayo said.
Tamayo then lamented how such acts of oppression and discrimination are committed by duty bearers and school officials themselves.
“All these, they keep happening and yet after 19 years the SOGIE Equality bill remains unpassed,” she pointed out.
She said that delaying the SOGIE Equality measure would be like telling someone, “who just happens to be different from you” that “it is OK to lose your fundamental right to education because the school uniform policy is much more important.”
“Sometimes change doesn’t happen organically, if it is, we probably didn’t have to wait for 19 years. Sometimes it needs a push,” she added.
The Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, chaired by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, held its first public hearing on a measure prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
This developed after Diez’s recent ordeal fueled discussions on gender discrimination as well as calls for the passage of the anti-discrimination bill.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.