MANILA—Twitter users are standing with transgender woman Gretchen Custodio Diez after she was harassed and detained Tuesday for using the women's comfort room of a shopping mall in Quezon City.
The hashtag #SOGIEEqualityNow topped Twitter trending list in the Philippines early Wednesday, renewing call for the passage of a measure that seeks to protect members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community from discrimination.
"Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Transgender people are humans. Let them live their truth and their lives," a Twitter user wrote.
"We don't need rainbow crossings or whatsoever! We need protection against discrimination!!!" another user said.
The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality bill, which aims to protect the LGBT community and people with real or perceived class, status, ethnicity, color, disability, and religious and political beliefs from discrimination, was passed in the House of Representatives in 2017.
The measure prohibits and penalizes discriminatory acts by a fine not less than P100,000 and not more than P500,000, or imprisonment of not less than 1 year but not more than 6 years, or both.
However, its Senate version languished in the period of interpellation, making it the longest-running bill under interpellation in the Senate.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, a staunch supporter of the LGBT community, is calling her colleagues to pass the bill.
"Sa mga nagsasabing hindi na natin kailangan ng SOGIE Equality Law kasi tanggap na naman ang LGBT sa Pinas: A trans woman has just been humiliated in a mall restroom in Cubao. Pinosasan at dinala sa Karingal!" she said.
"She is being harassed for living her truth. Discrimination against transgender people has to STOP! LGBT persons face harassment & discrimination every day. This must STOP!" she added.
Speaking to ABS-CBN News, Diez said she thought she was safe in the area, especially since there were rainbow-colored pedestrian lanes that show solidarity with the LGBT community.
"Alam kong gender-fair sila. Kaya doon ko po talaga pinili na mag-washroom. Kase regular customer kami doon," she said.
"Tapos biglang sa same place na inaasahan kong magiging fair, biglang doon ko pa po ito mararanasan," she added.
Protected by a city ordinance, Diez thought she has access in using public facilities in Quezon City.
"I identify myself as a woman. So dapat, karapatan kong gumamit ng female washroom, lalo na kaya ko nga gusto dun mag-washroom kasi Quezon City 'yun," she said.
Diez accepted the apology of the janitress who barred her from using the women's comfort room, but she will hold the shopping mall accountable.
"Wala naman akong gustong makulong. Gusto ko lang po maging lesson po 'yun na minsan po kasi sa society natin kami 'yung naaapi, kami pa 'yung masama, kami pa 'yung tinatapakan," she said.
"Gusto ko lang po patunayan na kaya rin po namin ipaglaban 'yung karapatan namin," she added.—With reports from Jervis Manahan, ABS-CBN News