THE Gretchen Diez controversy wouldn’t have exploded as it did had she not video-recorded the incident when she was shooed from a restroom for women at Farmer’s Plaza in Quezon City last Aug. 13, 2019 and hauled by the mall’s security guard to a police station.
Diez, a transwoman, was obviously foul-baiting. She wanted to create awareness of the rights of LGBTQ+ persons. How? By colliding with authority. She just wanted to pee at the mall and ended up landing in the news and talking with President Duterte.
She got national attention also in the Senate, where a bill on anti-discrimination is pending; at Malacañang, where the President reportedly expressed support for the LGBTQ+ advocacy; and from celebrities, including 2015 Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach who applauded Diez’s help to the cause of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans-genders, and queers, etc. and entertainer Vice Ganda who demanded separate CR for their group.
Gretchen Diez singlehandedly set off the current debate across the nation whether:
 there would be more confrontations in public comfort rooms (or CRs, which is how most Filipinos identify the toilet or bathroom);
 government or private owners of restrooms should be required by law to provide a separate section for LGBTQ+ staff, clients and customers.
There is no national law on anti-discrimination of persons of diverse SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity and expression). Amid the furor over the Gretchen Diez incident, Senate President Vicente Sotto III (from Cebu, if it’s of any interest or relevance) said it wouldn’t pass, “not in this Congress.” The bill flunked in the previous Congress too.
Local ordinance used
Diez had no national law to rely on. Instead she sued last Aug. 16 the mall and its security agency, using Quezon City’s “Gender Fair” ordinance. A number of local governments have already passed pro-LGBQT+ ordinances.
Mandaue City’s version is a code, authored by Councilor Nenita Layese and passed by the City Council last Feb. 11, 2016, then hailed by the city’s publicist as “the first in the country.”
Maybe it pioneered as a code but similar ordinances had earlier been approved by Davao City (2012) and, yes, Quezon City (2014). Other LGUs cited in a Rappler story include Cebu City, Angeles, Antipolo, Bacolod, Dagupan and Cavite.
The LGU measure was proven effective in Mandaue City when, on March 26, 2018, Regal Oliva, city treasurer, sent City Times Square 2 a “show cause” order, telling it to explain why a comedy bar’s gay staffers were banned from using the women’s CR. The letter didn’t come from the mayor, though it was “noted” by the mayor’s chief of staff, Elaine Bathan. Yet, the following day, City Times, apparently shaken by the local ordinance, lifted the ban.
The local government can tackle the job of enforcing anti-discrimination. Congress may opt to leave the CR dispute to LGUs, as the US federal government has done: the states lay down the rule on conduct in the use of public bathrooms. Some states guarantee the right while others order segregation.
SP Tito Sotto said the use of the CR must be “biology-based,” in line with the suggestion that restrooms will be more clearly identified by renaming “Men” and “Women” sections to “Penis” and “Vagina.” It has been biology-based for decades but times have changed. Rights of minorities cannot be put off forever. “Not this Congress” may soon be “this Congress.”
Meantime, advocates for the “third plus” sex may do well to come up with the argument against SP Sotto’s bill-shooter: the Sogie proposal won’t pass, the senator said, if it assails other rights and invades other people’s space.
Something like, how about the right of straight women who are disturbed by the presence of a woman with a penis in a CR for women?