Thursday, August 22, 2019

Tempest in a toilet

The case of trans woman Gretchen Diez is now the subject of discussions in social media, among lawmakers and gender equality advocates. And homophobes, too.
Diez was berated and dragged by a janitress at Farmer’s Plaza in Araneta Commercial Center in Quezon City when Diez tried to use the women’s rest room or toilet. That is, despite the fact Quezon City has an ordinance protecting the LGBTQIA+ against discrimination. She was later handcuffed on the way to the police precinct.
Diez was able to record the happening and she now has proof of the inhumane treatment. She was in the news and also at the Senate where Sen. Risa Hontiveros delivered a privilege speech on trans people being maltreated, humiliated, discriminated against.

Diez’s aggressor, whom I should not call a janitress from hell, certainly outdid herself but has since apologized, and the mall management is now finding ways to address the issue of rest rooms.

Questions remain. Is it safety? Is it security? Is it privacy? Is it hygiene and sanitation?

The discussions on what toilets or rest rooms the trans people should use range from the absurd to the offensive to the funny to the reasonable. Someone I know proposed on social media that rest rooms should no longer be labeled Male-Female or Men-Women but by the anatomical parts of their intended users—penis and vagina. And for those who cannot read English or Filipino, what icons to use on the signages? (I cannot help thinking of a noted sculptor’s iconic sculpture of a vagina.)

Does that mean that trans women who haven’t had surgery to remove their male parts but have already fully adopted other female attributes should still stick to the men’s rest room?
A mother asked on social media what mothers think of trans women (men who have transitioned into women) using the rest room where their young daughters go. As in, would their daughters be safe? The issue of safety.
This is insinuating that there may be male sex predators disguised as trans women. But sex predators could be anywhere.
Where should trans men (different from lesbians) like show-biz celebrity and former National Youth Commission head Ice (formerly Aiza) Seguerra and singer Jake Zyrus (formerly Charice Pempengco) go to relieve themselves? What rest room does Ellen Degeneres use? Seguerra was reported as saying that while abroad, he would avoid drinking liquids so that he wouldn’t have to use public rest rooms and risk humiliation.
What about congresswoman from Bataan and trans woman Geraldine Roman? What about actor BB Gandanghari (formerly Rustom Padilla)?

In restaurants where there are only two rest rooms (one for males and one for females) and, rarely, another one for persons with disabilities, where does a trans woman or trans man go? In establishments where there is only a “unisex” rest room, there is no choice to be made.
A senator has suggested that rest rooms for persons with disabilities (PWD) could also serve the trans people. Will the PWD mind? Will the trans people be offended because they are not in any way disabled?
The problem arises in huge rest rooms with many cubicles, and where those who enter are seen by many who are waiting in line or washing their hands. The trans man or trans woman could be shamed.
I gather that straight men are uncomfortable even with gay men urinating beside them. The privacy issue.
A trans man who looks every inch a man cannot urinate on a urinal while standing. He will have to go inside a cubicle that has a toilet bowl. A trans woman who looks every inch a woman (with or without reconstructive surgery) — where should she go?
On a couple of occasions (a provincial bus stopping in gas stations in remote places), when the line to the women’s rest room was so long and the men’s rest room was empty, I dashed to the latter and was done in two minutes. Other women followed suit.
There are suggestions that in rest rooms with many cubicles, one cubicle should be reserved for trans people. Well, the women’s rest room is the likely one. That is where mothers take their young sons who cannot go to the men’s rest room by themselves. This means there would be more users of the women’s rest rooms. Because safer, more inclusive?
The debate on the Sogie Equality bill continues. #