TIMING is also everything when it comes to pushing legislation.
Gretchen Custodio Diez, a transgender woman, was led out of the comfort room of a Quezon City mall Tuesday, August 13, by a janitress and was told to use the restroom for males. She obliged and, unable to contain herself from the humiliation, returned to confront the janitress and video-recorded the whole thing. An argument ensued, and the lady guard handcuffed Diez and brought her to the police station, where she was supposed to face a charge of unjust vexation filed against her by the janitress.
Bataan Representative Geraldine Roman went to Diez’s rescue and was quick to condemn the act by the mall’s personnel.
To recall, Roman it was who revived, in the 17th Congress, the SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression Equality) Bill since it got stalled in the tracks since the 11th Congress despite the industry of the late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and then Akbayan Representative Etta Rosales.
The incident involving Diez also caught the attention of Senator Risa Hontiveros, the upper house’s SOGIE Bill champ. On her social media post, she said it was unacceptable and that she already sent a lawyer to help Diez. “She is being harassed for living her truth. Discrimination against transgender people has to STOP!”
The mall’s janitress and the guard apologized later to Diez, but the latter was set to pursue the case against the mall management.
The incident buoyed once again the anti-discrimination legislation, and within the week the Senate opened discussions on the SOGIE Bill.
Hontiveros found herself called to task, explaining an entire tree of jargon to the senators who weren’t quite abreast with the LGBTQ+ lexicon.
Why not just say homo sapiens, the good Senator Tito Sotto asked. The overarching term would have sufficed, said Hontiveros, but only in the ideal world where discrimination does not exist. The labeling is necessary to highlight the injustices done on people with diverse sexual orientations.
Some local governments already have their own versions of the SOGIE law. For instance, Quezon City, where the Diez incident took place, already has its Gender Fair Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons.
The bill uses the term “assigned sex” for the sexual characteristic imprinted on one’s body. Gender identity is the sexual trait that one lives in, some choice at most. Gender expression is how one expresses one’s sexuality. Sexual orientation is one’s sexual or romantic attraction to men, women, to both or neither.
Sotto thinks the acronym is quite a mouthful and it could go on forever with more letters from the alphabet. True, said Hontiveros, since society is just beginning to recognize a whole slew of gender identities. The SOGIE Bill, if passed, will have repercussions not only in the private lives of individuals, but on policies as a whole.
The janitress and the guard who accosted Diez may not necessarily be thoughtless individuals, but naive about the new ways in the world.
The proponents, we hope, will find it in themselves to educate the rest of the community.