MANILA, Philippines – She may have been called out for expressing herself, but 21-year-old trans woman Aeron Jade Parena has received more than enough support to make up for it.
In a tweet that had gone viral, Parena, a research and development manager for a government institution, recounted her experience of discrimination in her workplace when their human resource (HR) manager allegedly reprimanded her for “dressing inappropriately.”
Parena was wearing a midi skirt and blouse when she said the HR manager insisted that she follow the male dress code.
Pinatawag ako sa HR today dahil dito sa suot ko. Inappropriate ba? Above the knee ba yung skirt ko? Hindi. Kasi it’s because transwoman ako. And their definition of “dressing appropriately” for me is to wear slacks and polos. pic.twitter.com/JxeDI1wRe4— Miss Ae (@isntitaeronic) July 15, 2019
Parena’s tweet has gotten 4,200 retweets and 29,800 likes as of posting, with many netizens expressing support for her.
After the incident, the HR manager and Parena’s bosses spoke with her and allowed her to wear her preferrred clothing.
Parena said it wasn’t the first time it happened. She claimed that she had been experiencing discrimination since she was employed in 2018, particularly from the HR department.
“I presented myself as who I am and have always been. Since I am a trans woman, I wear ladies’ clothes,” she said. “It’s clearly transphobia. I have been wearing [clothes] appropriately to the best of my understanding. And I have been doing my job well.”
Despite feeling discriminated against based on her SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression), Parena said that her workplace was relatively tolerant compared to other workplaces in the Philippines.
“May ibang trans women na talagang pinapagupitan at hindi pinapayagan na magdamit based on their gender identity (There are other trans women who are forced to cut their hair and are not allowed to dress based on their gender identity),” she said.
Last month, a professor from the University of the Philippines came forward with her experience of alleged workplace discrimination. Hermie Monterde, also a trans woman, recounted the times she felt discrimination from her colleagues ever since she started her career in 2011, paired with her efforts to physicially transition from a male to female body. (READ: U.P. transwoman professor talks about workplace discrimination)
For so long, the LGBTQ+ community in the Philippines has lobbied for the enactment of an anti-discrimination bill. The legislation can be traced back to 1995 when then Quezon City congressman Rey Calalay filed a bill proposing to recognize the “third sex” as a sector.
Since then, various lawmakers had followed suit. Two decades later, however, a national law protecting the LGBTQ+ remained elusive. (READ: [OPINION] Life without bullies? Why Senate must pass anti-discrimination bill)
Parena hoped that the bill would be passed in the 18th Congress. “I believe it is the only way to institutionalize anti-discriminatory policies in all fronts, either in public or private places,” she said. (READ: ‘Rainbow wave coming’: Hontiveros hopeful SOGIE bill will pass 18th Congress)
Parena expressed gratitude to all those who support her. S he hope that all forms of gender discrimination in the workplace would soon be eliminated.
“I am really happy that we fought for this, because I might have sparked an opportunity for other trans people in the workplace to speak up and be respected in their own skin,” she said. – With reports from Stanley Guevarra/Rappler.com
Stanley Guevarra is a Rappler intern and an incoming AB Literature major at Ateneo de Manila University.