Surviving discrimination: Deaf trans woman, trans man share ordeal at Senate hearing

Aleta Nieva-Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 20 2019 03:55 PM | Updated as of Aug 20 2019 04:05 PM

MANILA - Two members of the LGBT community on Tuesday shared their struggles with discrimination as lawmakers tackled a bill seeking to protect their rights.

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Disney Aguila said she experienced discrimination several times being deaf and a trans woman.

She related how she once applied for a job, filing a resume bearing her male birth name. 

"Pero ang sabi po sa aking sa HR 'Magpagupit ka. Kailangan mong magpagupit para ma-hire ka namin dito.' Sabi ko po bakit po? Ako po ay babae. Sabi niya ay 'Pinanganak kang lalaki. Sundin mo kung paano ka ipinanganak'," she said through sign language.

(But the human resources officer told me to get a haircut. 'You need to get a haircut to be hired here.' I asked why? I am a woman. The officer said 'you were born a man, you should be as you were born.')

Aguila said she felt disappointed by that incident.

"Nawalan po ako ng opportunity na magtrabaho. Wala pong puwedeng tumulong sa akin noon. Ako po ay deaf, hirap maghanap ng trabaho, taong may kapansanan tapos trans woman pa," she said.

(I lost the opportunity to work. There was no one to help me that time. I am deaf, it's hard enough for a person with disability to find a job, and I'm also trans woman.)

Aguila has been with the organization called Pinoy Deaf Rainbow for nine years. 

"Sana po may inclusion na puwedeng mangyari. Tanggapin ang bawat isa ano man siya. Bigyan po kami ng equality tulad ng bawat tao," she said.

(We hope for inclusion. Accept every person as the person is. Give us equality like everyone else.)

Meanwhile, JD Cleofas of the Pioneer Filipino Transgender Men movement explained why most of them would rather remain incognito.

"Most transgender men choose to be stealth rather than an outspoken advocate because it’s hard for us to go out in public without the fear of being ridiculed and shamed," Cleofas said. 

He admitted that while their community is very silent, they have in a way more privilege than their sisters in the trans woman community.

"Because we can go unnoticed. But sometimes being unnoticed can be more difficult because people wouldn't even know what our needs are. They have no idea how we expect to be respected on our gender identity," he said.

The SOGIE or Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression bill prohibits stigmatizing the LGBT in media and denying a person access to an institution, service or establishment based on gender, among others. 

Aside from the LGBTQ+ community, the measure aims to protect people with real or perceived class, status, ethnicity, color, disability, and religious and political beliefs from discrimination.

The Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, chaired by gender rights advocate Sen. Risa Hontiveros, tackled the bill Tuesday. 

"Ang iiwan ko lang pong tanong dito: kung totoong gusto natin ng pantay-pantay na karapatan bakit kailangan tayong 'magpakalalaki' para dito?" said Cleofas.

(The question I leave here is this: if we truly want equal rights, why do we have to 'man up' to appear here?)

Calls to address gender discrimination were revived following the detention of a transgender woman at a Quezon City mall over a scuffle that ensued after she was barred from using the women's toilet.