In some ways, transgenders in the Philippines, I believe to be relatively better off than other transgenders in other countries. There are some developments worth noting that are seen to exemplify this. Also, gone are the days when transgenders were only pigeonholed as comedians and entertainers, with Filipino transgenders somewhat able to express themselves more openly in public, though not all reactions are necessarily always positive.
However, discrimination is still everywhere in this community.
This is why, according to Tam Maguad of Pink Watch, the Filipino LGBT-related hate crime watch, if asked if Filipino transgenders are better off or not than their counterparts overseas, providing an answer is tricky. On one hand, there is tolerance for Pinoy LGBTs here in our country, but on the other, we barely have any legislations that protect us from discrimination and the harmful consequences that arises from it. And so safer to say, transgender people everywhere experience challenges that I’m sure vary from person to person no matter where they are, and still, the must to double the effort to be accepted, not only tolerated, in a free-living and pro-human community is still the main struggle.
For Bemz Benedito, first Congressional nominee of Ladlad, the only LGBT political party in the Philippines, “obviously, transgenders overseas are either better off or on the same boat as us”.
Many among Western countries that recognize trans people to be who they are, amend their identity papers and are given other rights. However, Eastern countries like the Philippines, that don’t recognize and protect their trans citizens, make the world hostile for transgenders.
Benedito added: “Sa atin na lang, sabi ng ilan na masuwerte ay tanggap na naman daw kami. May tanggap bang hindi mo mapalitan ang mga identity papers mo, hindi ka makapagkonsulta sa mgaendocrinologists para hindi ka mag-self-medicate at malagay ang buhay mo sa alanganin, hindi makapag-comfort room ng hindi ipinapahiya, hindi ka makakain sa isang restaurant o makapagsaya sa isang bar dahil ‘bawal daw ang cross dresser’, at hindi ka makapagtrabaho dahil hindi naman daw tulad namin ang mga bading na empleyado nila? Ang dami pang problema at kadalasan ang hindi pagtanggap nag-uumpisa sa pamilya, paglabas mo ng tahanan mo, sa eskuwela, sa trabaho, sa mga pribadong mga lugar, at iba pa.”
The advancement of human rights is generally uneven around the world. I don’t think it can be actually said that transgender people overseas are better off compared to those of us in the Philippines. In the US, for example, transAmericans continue to be vulnerable to workplace discrimination. Not all states recognize transfolks in the gender they identify as in their legal documents. The same is true in Canada. Marriage rights are also still being contested for many transpeople around the world. In ‘First World’ countries that have state gender recognition mechanisms, some aspects of the law may still violate transpeople’s rights. In Sweden, for example, transpeople are forced to undergo sterilization. In Japan, they should not have children before transition. In Hong Kong, a transperson has to carry an ID card that explicitly says he or she has Gender Identity Disorder (GID). Otherwise, other laws are used to persecute transgender communities. In Singapore, which is highly economically progressive and where transpeople can change their identity documents, Section 377 of their penal law inherited from British colonial rule, is used to harass transwomen as going against “the order of nature”.
The challenges are compounded in pre-dominantly Muslim countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, where “I believe they have more challenges. In Malaysia, a court has just denied the petition of Malaysian transwomen known as mak nyah to put to judicial review Section 66 of their Syariah Criminal code, used to abuse, harass and violate the rights of transwomen there. In the ASEAN, foreign ministers do not want to protect Southeast Asians from discrimination and unequal treatment based on their sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) by refusing to include SOGI in the proposed ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. In Hong Kong, a court also denied the petition of a transwomen to marry her long-time boyfriend. In Uganda, a bill that will impose the death penalty on ‘gay’ people can definitely be used against transgender people as well”.
These are the forms of discrimination Trans people are facing from the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep everyday. However, these are the problems that made them firmly resolved to continue to fight for Human Rights-or so to say Trans Right. If we believe to respect the right for quality life for each and everyone, then we should respect Trans people as part of a changing community where everyone has equal rights and oppurtunities. Trying to understand them and knowing how beautiful these people are inside and out, will make everyone realize to respect and acknowledge their existence.