In light of the heightened discussion on SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression) and LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer) rights, Senator Risa Hontiveros delivered a privilege speech to the Senate this August 24. She renewed her calls for Congress to pass the SOGIE equality bill and enact protections for the LGBTQ+ community.
This comes on the heels of Gretchen Custodio Diez, a transgender woman, being violently removed from the female restroom of a mall in Cubao.
While her speech received support from some in the room, others seemed a little confused when it came to the discussion on gender and identity.
Senator Koko Pimentel opened the questioning with: “The good senator used the term trans woman. May we know what exactly that is?” He continued by asking, “Is that different from transgender?”
Hontiveros then explained that transsexuals are a “subset” of transgenders. ‘Transgender’ exists as a blanket term for those who do not identify with the gender or sex they were assigned at birth. ‘Transsexuals’ refer to transgenders who have undergone a gender reassignment surgery.
Pimentel finished his queries by asking if transgenders “need to look something or someway” in order to be recognized. Hontiveros simply replied that they do not.
Senator Panfilo Lacson then took up the line of questioning with a concern he has regarding transgender women using female restrooms. “I see a little danger here. What if a straight male person who is simply voyeuristic would enter the ladies room with another intention?”, He posed.
“That would be dangerous if that were a common occurrence,” Hontiveros quickly resolved. She illustrated that such men with voyeuristic tendencies would probably not go to the lengths of cross-dressing just to spy on the women’s toilet. More likely, they would simply go inside as is boldly enough. For her, “They just enter as themselves, dressing in their everyday garb. They don’t need to pretend.”
Senate President Vicente Sotto III was next to raise his own query. He asked: “Why that lengthy letters [LGBTQIA+]? Why not just Homo sapiens? We’re all the same. Why do we have to segregate the gays from the lesbians from the straight guys?”
Hontiveros returned that a society with no need for labels would be ideal, “Kaya lang po, hindi ganoon ang nangyayari (But that is not the case we live in).”
Due to the way society has operated with inequality for so long, the proliferation of labels to differentiate heterosexuals from anyone else has become common practice. Some would even argue labels are now necessary in order for the LGBTQ+ to achieve their due rights.
Senator Richard Gordon diverted the discussion by adding: “It’s kinda getting difficult to live in the world today because we’re making adjustment.”
To which Hontiveros dealt with by saying: “If the good and very kind gentleman from Zambales thinks that it’s getting more and more difficult to live in the world, speaking as a man, you should try living in this world as a woman. You should try living in this world as an LGBT person.”
Senator Pimentel remarked that this questioning was only a “preview” of further discussion regarding the SOGIE Bill. After meeting opposition in Senate last session, despite passing in the lower house, Senator Hontiveros has refiled the bill in hopes of a more fruitful result.
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