May 14, 2021 (2:49 PM)

4 min read


For a country that prides on being accepting regardless of gender and sexuality, a local incident proves that discrimination based on gender continues to plague in the grassroots.

A disappointed transgender woman took to social media her frustration towards a local beach resort in Samal after facing a gender-based discrimination incident during her stay. From a small favor of using the female’s shower room because she felt uncomfortable using the men’s, the situation escalated to humiliation and maltreatment, with heated arguments about the trans woman’s genitalia and a confrontation with the transphobic management.

Following the incident, the resort resolved not to accommodate transgender guests after the situation blew up, even planning to take legal action against the trans woman. The owner reasoned that their lack of facilities to cater to trans visitors would make it inappropriate to accommodate them at all, even saying that this action would help them “avoid being labeled as discriminatory against transgenders.”

Gender-based discrimination in the Philippines is old news. We can liken her situation to that of Ms. Gretchen Diez back in 2019 who was prevented from using a women’s restroom in a mall. The mall janitress insisted that Ms. Diez must use the men’s room because she still “had a penis.”

Both incidents are disturbingly similar in a way that they explicitly denounce the validity of transgender women as women, grounded on the misconception that an individual’s gender should be their assigned sex at birth.

Incidents like these show that most Filipinos are not educated enough about sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE). You need not look far to prove this point – you can start by reading the comments section of one of your local news outlet’s pages.

And despite being the most “accepting” Asian country, rampant discrimination and hate crimes against the LGBTQIA+ negate this. At bare minimum, we are but tolerant.

Beyond discussions on who is or is not allowed to use the restroom, gender-based discrimination exists at home, in media, and in workplaces, to name a few. As a predominantly Catholic country, the stigma on sexual and gender minorities prevails and will continue to prevail unless we take corrective action.

Microagressions have been so overlooked to the point that they become the norm, such as teasing “bakla” as a way of mockery, misrepresenting the community on media, and even the not-so-subtle memes that stereotype LGBTQIA+ folks for the laughs.

In the work environment, a study has shown that most LGBTQIA+ members experience harassment. Often, there are no company policies that are meant to protect SOGIE-based discrimination.

Hate crimes against the trans community continue to be a grim reality. The tragic death of Ms. Jennifer Laude in 2014 did not receive justice after the president granted absolute pardon to her murderer. At least 50 similar cases have been logged since 2010, but the real count remains higher.

From discrimination to hate crimes, the LGBTQIA+ individuals deserve to feel safe in their communities. The SOGIE Equality Bill, protecting individuals from gender-based discrimination, among other basic human rights it proposes, must be enacted into law. Now refiled in the Congress since it was introduced two decades ago, legislators must see the urgency of the day-to-day realities that occur.

Until we get rid of microagressions, discrimination, and hate crimes, the country continues to be an unsafe place for the minorities. Everyone deserves basic human rights – to be respected in their individuality and expression regardless of SOGIE, and the State must recognize this need. We should start by properly educating SOGIE to the local communities. By correcting misconceptions and understanding different realities, we can move beyond mere tolerance to genuine acceptance.

About Sofia Roena Guan - Tabula Rasa

Sofia writes, sometimes, but prefers crunching numbers. A graduating accountancy student, she believes that there is more to life than becoming a corporate slave. Tabula rasa, her column name, means "a clean slate".

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