'Can I use this bathroom?'

By Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jul 08 2015 09:15 PM | Updated as of Jul 09 2015 05:16 AM

They stop mid-stride, stare wide-eyed.

One woman huffs and puffs and, hands on her hips, calls out, “Mister, nawawala ka yata.” (Mister, you seem lost.)

My friend is butch, around 5’6”, hefty and prone to wearing jackets. She straightens up from her slouch, thrusts out cup-C breasts and, with one raised brow, confronts the shocked audience of four in an upscale Makati mall toilet.

Cita (not her real name) used to bind her breasts. Then she discovered her full sensuality.

“Butch – tough butch – all woman,” she drawls. She’s being ironic when she does that. A lesbian is, of course, a woman.

Decades back, only lesbians who looked “manly” qualified as butches. Today, there are lipstick butches, soft butches and butches of all shades. My friends told me ten years ago: it’s the energy, not the look. Now, some friends reject the notion of lesbian labels. They can be femme, butch, a combination of both.

But Dom, another friend, identifies fully as male and chafes about her breasts, her hips and having to wear mid-height heels. There is great anger in her from a lifetime of having to fit in. She’d be chased out of toilets for males so Dom doesn’t even try.

Her buddy, Ebe (real name Eve), looks like a rangy adolescent from the back. She has “always lived as male” in the United States where she grew up.

She not only trounced guys at elementary softball, skateboard and track and field; she joined them in peeing standing up. That is, until horrified mothers broke up their innocent fun.

Ebe has what she wryly calls “itsy, bitsy buns” on the chest. She finds bindings too painful.

“Until I do, they’ll hassle me,” she says of trips to toilets for males. So daily, the Filipino-American braves the double takes from women.

And then there’s Faith, a transgender woman who stubbornly tries daily to use comfort rooms marked “female.” She says her success rate is 80%.

She’s not just doing it as a statement. When she “fails,” the psychic fallout is terrible: the sexist croons, sexual jests and jeers from males who see the 5’2”, 110-lbs F as a vulnerable target.

These encounters leave Faith depressed, sometimes in tears.

Her only consolation is, that there are males, yes, who actually defend and stay to guard her from harassers. One time, a brawl erupted in a mall when Faith’s tormentors also turned against the strangers who tried to protect her.

These are real people, real lives. So I don’t really know how to take the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) announcement about “communal” toilets.

Senior citizens and persons with disabilities should be given comfort rooms that cater to their special physical needs.

But as good friend Giney Villar notes, many LGBT members have the same needs as other people. They just have identities other than the traditionally accepted ones.

“Communal” made me imagine a room full of cubicles, available to male, female and any other identity and gender on a first come, first served basis. The CAAP idea isn’t much different from what now serve us in, say, Starbucks. I always thought that was more a matter of space logistics and economics that of gender sensitivity.

The communal toilets are convenient. But my LGBT friends are right: it’s not going to free them from the hassles they face.

(Read more in Recognition, Not Accommodation)

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.