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Restroom matters and dirty deeds

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There have been many cases of transgender persons being barred from using or dragged out of restrooms in the past. All of them were ignored, largely met with disapproval or even laughed at.

The latest incident is no different from the past ones but this one received wide media coverage and became a pivotal moment to confront a longtime discriminatory action and discuss LGBTQ+ issues.

On Tuesday night, 13 August, Gretchen Custodia Diez, a transgender woman, was barred from entering the woman’s restroom in Farmer’s Plaza Araneta Center, Quezon City.

Diez was about to enter the restroom when she was stopped by a janitress. Chayra Ganal insisted she use the men’s restroom instead.

Diez filmed and aired the incident in real time on Facebook live which angered Ganal who brought Diez to mall security where she was detained. All the while, Diez recorded the event on her phone including the times where she was abused physically and verbally by Ganal. The police say that the latter would press charges against Diez for unjust vexation.

Diez’s Facebook video immediately flared online. LGBTQ+ groups and advocates quickly came to Diez’s aid, relaying the information to anyone who could help. Longtime LGBTQ+ ally, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, promptly sent her lawyer to the police station. Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, herself a transwoman, personally went to Diez to extend help.

TRANSWOMAN Gretchen Diez was handcuffed and hauled to the police precinct after the restroom incident at a mall in Quezon City.

It was only at 11:30 p.m. when Diez was allowed to go free and when Ganal apologized and dropped the charges.

Upon hearing about the incident, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte criticized the Farmer’s Plaza management for allowing such discrimination to happen in spite of the city’s mandate to protect the LGBTQ+ from prejudice.

This is just one of the many incidents of discrimination and harassment against LGBTQ+ happening around the country.

The following day, Representatives Roman, Sarah Elago and Arlene Brosas held a press conferece on the Diez case.

“You will not be penalized for believing what you believe in. But please don’t step on our rights… These aren’t special rights or privilege. These are the exact same rights that everyone else is entitled to,” Rep. Roman said.

In past incidences, the aggrieved party had a slim or no fighting chance against such acts. Now, thanks to the efforts of LGBTQ+ activists, laws on the lower level have been put in place no matter how slow, giving hope to LGBTQ+.

Diez was able to file a complaint against Araneta Center Inc., Starline Security Agency Inc. and the sanitation services agency contracted by the mall for violation of the city’s Gender Fair Ordinance.

It is fortunate that Diez is strong enough to pursue the case and that there is now a stauncher network of activists and an awareness deeper than that of several years ago.
In the wake of controversy, discussions were generated.

And one if the most common suggestions is to create an additional restroom for LGBTQ+ people. But the issue is not if there is one, two or three restrooms — the problem is the mindset, lack of understanding of gender issues, discrimination and bigotry, which must be answered and must change.

According to a study done by the United Nations (UN) on the number of incidents of discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and expression (SOGIE), 30 percent of Filipinos reported having experienced discrimination in the workplace.

Transgender people are most likely to continue to experience discrimination and harassment.

Like Diez, everyone who believes in equal rights must keep fighting on.

With Roel Hoang Manipon

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