PCW calls for inclusivity, sensitivity towards all genders

The Philippine Commission on Women calls on the public to be sensitive towards the needs and concerns of all persons including those with  diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC). This is after a resort drew flak for posting a notice refusing to accommodate transgender guests.

In a viral Facebook post, the transgender guest cried foul over the alleged discrimination she experienced in a Davao resort after the staff blocked her from using the women’s bathroom. Allegedly, an attendant said that only transgender women who have undergone sex reassignment surgery are allowed. She said that she brought the complaint to the management but she was treated the same. After coming under fire because of the Facebook post, the resort management announced that to “avoid issues of discrimination,” they will no longer accommodate transgender guests because they have no facilities for them. In another statement, it clarified that it is not homophobic or transphobic, but was merely “protecting” its other guests. It explained that women guests have been complaining that they do not feel safe and are uncomfortable with transgender guests in the shower room with them.

While a better appreciation of the facts can come in later when more details become available, the PCW believes that this is an opportune time to elevate the discussion beyond the said incident into more meaningful conversations on gender equality, sensitivity, and inclusivity. This incident is not a first, because of the many inequities and biases that people of diverse SOGIESC had experienced and are still experiencing. In 2019, a transgender woman was arrested after being similarly blocked from using the female comfort room in Cubao, Quezon City mall. In yet another occurrence, transgender students were barred from wearing the clothing of their choice in their graduation rites because they must wear garb that conforms to the sex reflected in their school records.  In 2015, a nightclub in Taguig City did not allow trans women to enter due to its “No Crossdressers Allowed Policy”. One presented a California State ID indicating a female name and gender marker but was still stopped by security personnel who said “Lalaki pa rin ‘yan”, (He’s still a man). These are just dire manifestations of the society’s lack of full understanding and acceptance of gender expression and identity.

Indeed, it is important to recognize the sentiment, concerns, and rights of every person, including those of diverse SOGIESC and openness and inclusivity instead of pitting one group’s right and protection against another. 

Terrified of harassment – this is the common denominator when it comes to the attitudes of transgender, female, and even male guests towards sharing public toilets and bathrooms.  It is a fear rooted in different experiences of harassment and violation of privacy of women, men, and persons of diverse SOGIESC alike. Thus it is best to understand this from the standpoint of right to protection from sexual violence and privacy regardless of SOGIESC, rather than a mere sense of entitlement of either group. The culprit for the misplaced bias towards another is the predatory behavior of some individuals. Such fear and a person’s right to bodily integrity should be recognized, and the recognition of one group’s right should not result in the invalidation of another’s. 

In the spirit of fighting for equality and reiterating that no gender is superior over another, we must widen our comprehension and must recognize that their concerns are valid. The key to moving forward is fostering inclusive spaces and addressing all the apprehensions.

One way to do this is providing gender-neutral facilities. We can also take this opportunity to immerse ourselves in recognizing and addressing the concerns not only of women, men, and transgender, but all of other intersecting conditions requiring accessibility and safety of public facilities such as disability, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and old age.

The PCW believes that incidents like this can be used as important turning points, as we still navigate our way towards a fully inclusive community, with open minds, utmost respect for the dignity of every person, and willingness to take actions.