"So what special right does Aruba Bar and Restaurant have that they can just enforce rules that violate (the) principles of humanity? What special right does Aruba Bar and Restaurant have that they can continue doing business like this for years? Since when did a business license become a license to violate human rights? Does my gender identity and expression violate their right to conduct their business in a socially responsible way? Why are we turning a blind eye to this inhumanity?” - BB Gandanghari
Outrage Magazine’s Position on Barring Transgenders from Entering Venues
(Open Letter to the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines)
Hon. LEILA M. DE LIMA
Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
SAAC Building, Commonwealth Avenue
UP Complex, Diliman,
Commissioner De Lima:
On May 4, one of the founders of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), Sass Rogando Sasot, wrote (on her Facebook account) about the alleged getting discriminated (again) in Ayala-owned Greenbelt property.
Writing Word of Honor (An Open Letter to AyalaLand Regarding the Treatment Of Transgender Women in their Premises), she narrated how, after having a few drinks to celebrate the birthday of one of her friends in People’s Palace in Greenbelt 3, Ayala center, Makati City, at around 12:30 am on 4 May 2010, “we decided to continue our celebration in Barcino, which is located in Greenbelt 2. After finding out that Barcino was already closed, we decided to use the Greenbelt 3 exit fronting New World Renaissance Hotel to hail cabs. En route to the said location, at the bridge of Greenbelts 2 and 3, we were stopped by S.G. Joel Sarabia. At first he told us that Greenbelt 3 was already closed. He lied: He allowed other people to enter. We then inquired why we were not being allowed to enter. He bluntly said that: ‘Kasi bawal kayo dito (Because you’re not allowed here).’ He then suggested that we just use the dark and dodgy sidewalk.”
I would like to bring this (and similar) discriminatory act(s) to the attention of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, hoping for an investigation to be done to ascertain their culpability in violating not just gender-specific rights, but basic human rights, thereby coming up with a solution to deal with the same.
Specifically, this letter hopes to highlight the need to:
- Develop a complaint mechanism so victims of transphobia, and/or gender-related discrimination can openly bring up and discuss what happened to them;
- Come up with a support system, be it legal or in whatever form, to (affordably, for the victims) pursue (cases against) the human rights violators; and
- Increase awareness on the existence of gender-related discrimination, and that something SHOULD and CAN be done with them.
Laws exist to uphold the dignity of every Filipino, or every person regardless of who and what they are.
Article II, Section 11 of the Philippine Constitution, itself, states that “The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.”
The same principle is advocated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 1 and Article 2): “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” And: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms..., without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
Yet time and again, private companies put into practice policies that allow them to violate these tenets.
This isn’t the first time STRAP’s Sasot experienced discrimination.
On May 25, 2008, Ms Sasot was refused entry in Ice Vodka Bar, also in Greenbelt 3 in Makati City, because of a supposed standing policy to bar people “like them” from entering the venue on certain days.
This was the same reasoning given to Ms Sasot when she wrote about the alleged discrimination on May 4.
As Ms Sasot further narrated: “While (he banning was) happening, Mr. Sarabia was communicating with his colleagues through the (two-way) radio. We overheard someone instructing him to not let us in. We took note of Mr. Sarabia’s name and decided to file a complaint at the Security Office located at the basement parking of Greenbelt 3. While at the Security Office, I told the night duty manager that AyalaLand had promised through a letter in May 2008 that incidents like this would never happen again in their premises. Hence, we couldn’t understand why we were experiencing this humiliating treatment again. When SG Joel Sarabia was asked to give his reason why we were not allowed to enter, the gist of his answer was: ‘We were identified as prostitutes.’”
Ms Sasot “informed (the security personnel) about the meeting I had with the administrators of Greenbelt 3 in May 2008. During that meeting, they told me that they do not tolerate discrimination in their premises. They clarified their policy about surveillance of suspected sex workers, and said they did not apply specifically to transgenders, but to all suspicious individuals. They even agreed to me that equating being a transgender woman to being a sex worker is wrong. I was even assured during those meetings that there would certainly be improvements not just in Greenbelt but also in all Ayala Malls. But is this what you call improvement?”
The situation with Ice Vodka Bar was, eventually, resolved, when the venue’s management not only apologized, but has since then been pushing for changes in its practices when dealing with transgenders.
Unfortunately, for every Ice Vodka Bar resolution there are more cases not reaching amicable outcomes.
Earlier, on July 4, 2006, comedienne Inday Garutay was allegedly told to leave the premises of Aruba Bar and Restaurant in Metrowalk in Ortigas Center, Pasig City, also because she was deemed dressed inappropriately. Garutay had filed a case against the venue.
Surprisingly, not learning from that experience, Aruba Bar and Restaurant AGAIN allegedly discriminated against another transgender, this time on April 23, 2009 in the person of BB Gandanghari, who was allegedly told through her assistant (incidentally, Ms Sasot) not to bother going to the place dressed as a woman because she will be refused entry into the venue, which bars “cross-dressers.”
There have also been complaints about superclubs Manor and The Embassy (now Encore), and, in my interviews in Boracay in Malay, Aklan, at Summer Place, a bar at Station 2, where transgenders are allegedly not allowed entry unless they show their breasts to prove they are already “real women.”
And, of course, there’s the May 4 occurrence.
BB Gandanghari best summarizes the arguments against these venues, when, after she was allegedly refused entry into Aruba Bar and Restaurant, she wrote:
"So what special right does Aruba Bar and Restaurant have that they can just enforce rules that violate (the) principles of humanity? What special right does Aruba Bar and Restaurant have that they can continue doing business like this for years? Since when did a business license become a license to violate human rights? Does my gender identity and expression violate their right to conduct their business in a socially responsible way? Why are we turning a blind eye to this inhumanity?”
For these venues to think they can get away with discriminating is reprehensible.
And what can only be worse than their twisted thinking is that nothing is being done to confront this issue, so that it keeps on happening.
I hope this letter merits some attention. Crimes committed against people specifically singled out for their being different should never be allowed to happen, for their existence highlight not only the evils of non-acceptance (that led to The Holocaust, the Rwandan Genocide, and the very existence of such groups as the Ku Klux Klan), but – if we choose to continue ignoring them – makes us just as guilty as the violators for letting them happen.
One with you in the struggle for equal rights,
MICHAEL DAVID dela Cruz TAN
Publisher/Editor in Chief
5108-A Filmore Street, Barangay Palanan
1235 Makati City, Metro Manila
Ph.: (+632) 5564743
Mobile: (+63) 9287854244, 9157972229
Sass Rogando Sasot