MANILA, Philippines – Geraldine Roman, the first transgender woman elected to the Philippine Congress, called on the LGBTQ+ community to demand from public servants "what is due us as human beings."
Roman made the call in a press conference on Wednesday, August 14, the day after she assisted transgender woman Gretchen Custodio Diez, who was barred from using a women's restroom at a mall in Cubao, Quezon City, and was later arrested for it. (READ: Trans woman Gretchen Diez: I didn't think I'd be treated like a criminal)
"It is time to demand from our public servants what is due us as Filipinos and as human beings. Remember that the power, true power lies in our hands as citizens of this country. We can vote for people who support us and at the same time we can withdraw our support from people who do not support us as Filipinos," said Roman.
The Bataan 1st District representative said the LGBTQ+ community must put pressure on their local government units.
"Samantalahin ko na rin 'to para manawagan sa lahat ng mga LGBT na Pilipino: na kalampagin po ninyo ang inyong mga local government units. Alamin po ninyo kung ano ang ating mga karapatan, kung ano ang mga kakulangan sa ating mga batas, at hingin po natin ito sa ating mga public servants," said Roman.
(Let me take advantage of this opportunity to call on all LGBT Filipinos: put pressure on your local government units. Know what your rights are, determine what's lacking in the law, and ask for reform from your public servants.)
Roman was joined during the press conference by Gabriela Women's Party Representative Arlene Brosas, who has filed a resolution calling for a probe into the discrimination and harassment that Diez experienced.
Aside from Roman and Brosas, House Resolution No. 232 seeking the congressional investigation was also filed by the following Makabayan lawmakers:
'Is it difficult to be kind and considerate?'
Both the congresswomen then continued lobbying for the passage of the bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression (SOGIE).
Roman shared how she always uses the women’s bathroom at the Batasang Pambansa, yet her colleagues in the House do not make a big deal out of it.
"Sasagutin ako ng ibang tao, 'Kasi congresswoman ka.' But you know what? Nananawagan ako sa ating mga kapwa mambabatas: Kung ako nabibigay 'nyo sa akin 'yung basic need ko, hinahayaan 'nyo 'kong umihi sa CR ng babae sang-ayon sa aking gender identity, bakit 'nyo ito ipagkakait sa mga ibang mga trans women, trans men, sa mga LGBT?" said Roman.
(Some people would say, "It's because you're a congresswoman." But you know what? I'm calling on our fellow lawmakers: If you're able to provide my basic need, if you let me pee in the women's CR in accordance with my gender identity, why would you deny the same right to other trans women, trans men, the LGBT community?)
The transgender congresswoman added, "So really, is it so difficult for us to be kind and considerate?"
Brosas also said there is a need to continue educating Filipinos about the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
"Mayroon tayong culture of intolerance eh. Parang 'pag iba, akala natin hindi na 'yun katanggap-tanggap sa mga tao. Pero dapat siguro i-widen natin sa pamamagitan lang siguro ng education," said Brosas.
(We have a culture of intolerance. If someone's different from us, we think it's unacceptable already. But we must widen our perspectives through education.)
"Education talaga ang kailangan natin sa mga tao ngayon. Kasi kahit na ang ganda ng batas, 'pag sa implementation nagkakaroon tayo ng ganyan.... It means nananatili lang siyang rhetorics o 'di kaya sa papel lang. Hindi natin 'yun gusto. Gusto natin buhay 'yung batas," she added.
(Education is what the people need right now. Because no matter how good a law is, if there are still problems with its implementation, it means it stays in the realm of rhetorics or it's just a mere piece of paper. We don't want that. We want the law to become alive.)
The SOGIE equality bill successfully hurdled the House in the previous 17th Congress. But the Senate did not pass the measure, forcing LGBTQ+ advocates to refile the measure in the current 18th Congress. – Rappler.com