All the same
Another day, another Tito Sotto aphorism. “Aren’t we all the same?” he asked this week, apparently confused at the spectrum of gender identities which were, to him, nothing more than a series of letters. No, sir, the short answer is that we are not, as though this shouldn’t be exceedingly obvious. What else can we expect from someone who has never been forced to confront the varied experiences and struggles faced by anyone who isn’t male, cisgendered and wealthy? What can we expect from a Congress full of them?
Trans representative Geraldine Roman correctly dismissed these “funny” comments as irrelevant to the matter at hand, which was the discrimination and abuse of a trans woman using a women’s toilet, and whether or not allowing trans individuals to use their preferred bathrooms was more a matter of safety than a matter of discrimination. The comments and the narrow-minded viewpoint they represent among so many of those in office are not irrelevant in the long term though, as they showed very clearly this week what a lack of diversity in these spaces can do in hampering progressive thought. Even basic concepts of gender identity seem to baffle them. Do we really expect them to be able to advocate in any significant way for trans rights? Do we expect them to understand the significance of correct pronouns, or of being able to change sexes on legal documents? Do we expect them to view equal access to public toilets as anything more than a minor issue? Do we expect of them
the fundamental human compassion that it takes to recognize that these are struggles we should be eliminating?
The struggles which fly beneath the radar of the powerful might as well not exist. They probably labor under the widely held idea that LGBTQ+ individuals enjoy tolerance, even acceptance in the Philippines — a disappointing misconception, as we’ve seen last week when we were treated to a very graphic example of how trans individuals can be viewed as subhuman and treated like criminals. The shadow of Jennifer Laude looms large, as we once again prioritize everything *but* the comfort and safety of a minority so often confronted with discriminatory and hostile behavior.
The ensuing conversation appears to hinge on whether the safety and comfort of women are threatened by allowing trans women the use of these spaces, consistent with their gender identity. Once again, we see our legislators baffled and unaware of how similar struggles have played out in other countries: bathroom access rights have long been a battleground for trans rights and every argument on both sides has been said and heard. Clear solutions, like gender neutral toilets, should come up naturally. Instead we are treated to Tito Sotto’s pleas for a “reality check” since “lesbians” clearly can’t use male toilet urinals standing up.
We’ve seen this crudeness of understanding time and again. Indeed, how can we lay all the blame at the feet of an uneducated janitress with outdated views, when it’s people with the same world view that we continue to elect and choose to represent us time and again? Even worse are those who capitalize on being “allies” of the LGBTQ+, proudly wearing the rainbow and making prominent declarations during pride month, but who fail to show any concrete support when matters like same-sex marriage and the Sogie (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression) Equality Bill are on the table. Enough is enough. We need intelligent politicians whose advocacies for disadvantaged groups are clear, strong, uncompromising and intersectional. We don’t need more pithy remarks from people whose understanding of human rights remains firmly rooted in the last century.
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