Updated: Jul 24
In the Philippines, it has been literally a long battle against LGBTQ+-based discrimination—the SOGIE Bill. This opinion piece by J aims to shed some light on what the said bill is really about and show how it affects us, whether we're part of the LGBTQ+ community or not.
For the longest time, I have been taught that there are two sexes: man and woman. I was also raised with the knowledge that the only acceptable couple is a man-woman one. To act or think otherwise was considered sinful and scandalous, even related to mental illnesses. This is why people within the LGBTQ+ spectrum have been discriminated against in all forms possible.
Although an anti-discriminatory bill based on SOGIE has been fought for in the Philippines since 2000, it has gotten traction only a few years ago (thanks to the power of social media and collective action by the LGBTQ+ community and allies!). All over the local news, there are pro and con debates on whether we should push for the SOGIE Equality Bill.
What is SOGIE?
SOGIE stands for Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Expression. To put things simple, here’s a SOGIE 101.
Sexual Orientation is who one is attracted to. Homosexuals are attracted to the same gender while heterosexuals, also identified as the normalized boy-girl attraction, are attracted to the opposite gender. Bisexuals are enticed by more than one gender whereas pansexuals are people who are attracted to others regardless of gender.
Gender Identity is who one internalizes themselves as. When a person’s gender identity mismatches with their assigned sex at birth, they are referred to as a transgender man/woman. In the case where one’s gender identity is parallel to their birth-assigned sex, they are regarded as either a cisgender man/woman.
Gender Expression is how one expresses their Gender Identity - one could either be masculine, feminine or androgynous/genderqueer/nonbinary.
See, all people have SOGIE. Even straight people! It’s just that they aren’t discriminated for identifying as cisheterosexual (or straight) men or women. And while haters claim that all these terms are gawa-gawa lang or made up, well, all the terms we use started out that way. But since they are utilized profusely and they make sense of concepts which are difficult to put into words, we consider them now to be legit such as kilig or even kalayaan. I mean, if we’re open to slang words like “shooketh”, “lit”, or “yas”, surely we can embrace terms that would make us better understand actual human beings.
It’s a no-g for SOGIE?
I have seen a lot of friends, family, and colleagues’ posts on their arguments against the SOGIE bill. Some of them assume that this bill shall trample over their religious freedom. Others believe that the existing laws should be able to cover the discrimination based on SOGIE. But mostly, they believe that the Philippines is already a country that accepts LGBTQ+ folks.
Celebrities like Vice Ganda, Boy Abunda, Ice Seguerra, and Bretman Rock have been on top of the list of famous local LGBTQ+ names. All over the Philippines, LGBTQ+ pageants are held in celebration of queer freedom. Some of them are even televised. So, what more could the LGBTQ+ folks ask for, right?
Another concern is the access to public spaces like bathrooms. For transgender women to be allowed in female restrooms makes some ciswomen feel threatened. What if any man disguises as a transgender woman and harasses ciswomen? Access to public services are questioned as well. Anti-SOGIE-Bill folks also lobby that people reserve the right to refuse service on the grounds of religious freedom.
If a doctor does not agree with the concept of women having sexual relations with another woman, shouldn’t they be allowed to reject lesbians as patients? If a Catholic school does not allow cross-dressing within their campus, is it right to penalize them for implementing what they teach based on their Scripture?
But probably one of the biggest concern is on the concept of same-sex marriage. The Philippines, being a predominantly Catholic country, stands strong against anything contrary to the Adam-Eve narrative. For them, marriage is about love and the only form of love they could accept is a heterosexual one. Why mess with the order and what’s been considered right and moral for centuries?
SOGIE Equality Bill NOW!
Ultimately, people hate what they do not understand. Most of the haters on the side of anti-SOGIE haven’t even read the bill in the first place. In summary, it defines terms like SOGIE, discrimination, and stigma. It enumerates as well the different situations of discriminatory profiling and practices. It declares to be unlawful a lot of the things society feels unashamed to do in the spirit of religious freedom (which is in my opinion the safe term they use to officially spread hate to our fellow LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters).
Contrary to misconceptions that the SOGIE bill is all about same-sex marriage, it actually focuses on the most basic level of equality for all SOGIEs. The SOGIE Bill (Senate Bill 1271, in substitution of Senate Bill 395) simply protects the public from being discriminated based on one's SOGIE. Yes, it resonates more towards LGBTQ+ folks. But this is because they are the main subject of ridicule and abuse when it comes to SOGIE profiling. Surely, you don't see straight people being ridiculed for dressing straight; they don't even have to come out because most people assume straight-ness unless otherwise stated.
In families, children are disowned, abused, and even killed. These kids aren’t allowed to express their true selves and there is a need to “come out” which is always difficult for everyone involved.
In schools, the administration usually has a prescribed haircut and uniform which conforms to preset gender identities. Should there be any deviance from these gender stereotypes, students get bullied. Some even driven to commit suicide.
At work, employment opportunities are lacking, especially for those who are transparent in the expression of their LGBTQ+ identities. They get judged by how they dress or who their life partner is, which does not, in any way, measure anyone’s work ethic, if they are at all employed. Once hired, chances for promotion or bonuses become even slimmer for them.
But let’s move on to actual instances of SOGIE-based discrimination here in the Philippines (in line with the SOGIE Bill definition), shall we?
Workplace and Housing Discrimination
Almost a year ago, Hermie Monterde, an assistant Math professor in UP Manila revealed how she was discriminated in the workplace due to her SOGIE. Her application for tenureship was rejected on remarks of “interpersonal and professional concerns”. In a Facebook post, Hermie also disclosed how it was for transgender kids in the university dorms as well as infirmaries. In detail, she discussed how the binary gender stereotypes violate their right to a safe and secure life. Even in supposedly liberal environments like UP, there’s still that stigma following LGBTQ+. Whether they’re out or not. Whether they’re dating the same or opposite sex. Whether they have “real lady parts” or not. All of which should not matter when it comes to providing healthcare or assessing the work performance of any person.
Unsafe Public Spaces
Last August, headlines were heated as transgender woman Gretchen Diez was arrested for using a public restroom in Cubao. A janitress reported Diez to the police, who were not sure how to handle this matter. Netizens also went on about how ciswomen would be easily harassed if a man simply dressed like a woman. First of all, men harass women everywhere. They do not need to resort to acting like a transgender woman to do it. Second, why should our transgender sisters carry the burden brought about by straight men harassing women? And lastly, being in restrooms designated for females definitely would be safer for transgender women. It is where they can perform their feminine rituals like doing makeup and changing their clothes. It’s where they belong as women.
Just this quarantine, a Twitter post from Jzan Tero suddenly became trending. It tells the story of how Jzan was catfished by a someone she met online. Catfishing refers to setting up a fake digital or online personality in an attempt to deceive someone. After weeks of being in a long-distance relationship, eventually meeting in person, and even having sex with each other, the guy revealed that he was in cahoots with multimedia artist Sam Morales. They confessed that they were just playing her as Sam became "addicted" to catfishing queer people. As the post gained more traction in social media, it was found out that Sam had other victims who were members of the LGBTQ+ community as well.
How many more Gretchens and Hermies and Jzans need to suffer under the lack of understanding by society? How many more kids will grow up in a home where they are rejected for being true to themselves? How many more times do we need to hear straight men and women complain about how the SOGIE bill will strip them of their rights? Until when do we have to stand by while supposedly religious people preach hate in the name of their respective deities?
Most, if not all, LGBTQ+ transgressions stem from ignorance and fear. Get informed and educated about all sides of arguments regarding the SOGIE Bill. Talk to actual LGBTQ+ and hear their stories. Reach out to LGBTQ+ folks should you witness an injustice being committed.
To all the members of the LGBTQ+ community, YOU ARE VALID. The fight is not over. SOGIE Equality Bill NOW.
Read on the SOGIE Bill here: https://www.senate.gov.ph/lisdata/2517921693!.pdf
This post is sponsored by Simula PH.