Abellanosa: Our theories behind toilet use

Fringes and frontiers

DEBATES and argumentations on the SOGIE bill are getting louder. Big words such as “respect” and “recognition” have been dropped like bombshells. Those who are for the bill begin with the big ideas of “humanity” and “respect.” Integral in their argument is the universality of human rights, a primary requirement of which is “equality” and thus the necessity of the law’s equal protection.

At first glance the proposal looks harmless. Many of its proponents in fact, and especially in the Philippine context, argue that it is in harmony with religious teachings. There is a danger however if we rush and jump into the conclusion. Most of the time, we disregard the theoretical frame of things, forgetting that most assertions in the public sphere come from assumptions that remain debatable. In a world where many people believe that one’s opinion is as good as the other, the way to break the tie is to side with those who are noisiest if not most powerful.

Departing from the premise that law in general should protect all human beings, the argument in favor of the bill moves forward: whatever males receive, females also should, and whatever males and females receive then so should gays and lesbians. And this goes farther: whatever males, females, gays, and lesbians, receive, so should transgenders, and queers. Then back to the main premise: they are, after all, human beings, and human beings deserve to be respected, protected, and loved.

Clearly, there is no quarrel on the need to be loved and protected. Missed however in the discussion, and perhaps considered by many as non-essential are the following questions: have we really settled or are we just assuming that there are other categories besides “man” and “woman?” Surely, the common answer of those in favor of the bill would lead us to that often-repeated distinction between “sex”, “sexual orientation” and “gender.” But this answer makes the discussion now more interesting. And so again we ask: have we really settled that “sex” and “gender” are two different categories?

Sociologists tell us that sex and gender are not interchangeable. And that we cannot just rely and mainly base a person’s gender on his biological constitution. Thus a person may be classified at birth as male because of his penis but he may discover in his early adult years that he is a homosexual in terms of orientation. Now, should he, later, decide to change portions of his body on the basis of what he feels is his strong femininity, then he becomes a trans-woman. And this now is the question: can a man therefore “choose” or “decide” not to be a man, and thus become a woman? Is someone who “decides” to become a woman – “a woman?”

So the sociological “interpretation” that we are not biologically determined is right? Is it correct to say that all the categories that we have been having are just categories (male and female) and are subject to change depending on how society “construes” or “interprets” reality?

If the SOGIE bill will become a law, it will “require” us to not just respect those that the law requires us to respect. It will “require” us to “change” the essentials behind our interpretations. For example: in the name of respect and love we will be made to reinterpret what has long been held that man and woman are our origin. Likely we will be told that we are not sure as to whether those first beings were truly man and woman. Perhaps we will be told that they probably were not, and their sexes were merely assigned by the dominant system at the time of the myth’s writing.

Are those politicians who have professed their support for the bill making a choice based on their examination of the bill’s assumptions? Why is this important? When enacted SOGIE will not just be about rights and recognitions. It will make us change our understanding of distinctions, assignments, and roles.

So this is not just about entering the CR and using whoever’s toilet. This is about what presupposes these assertions. At the core of our debates are the differences in our reading of what basically underlies the way we read things, and even how we position ourselves in relation to a future we hope our world to achieve.


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