Sunday, June 28, 2015

No excuse for bigotry

My June 28, 2015 column.  


After the death of transgendered woman Jennifer Laude last year,
one would expect that most people would have acquired
some understanding of, or more empathy toward the issues
of transgenders and other sexual minorities in this country.
If we are to go by the way clubs such as Valkyrie—
which happens to be partly owned by one of the most
famous cross-dressers in the country, celebrity Vice Ganda—
continue to discriminate against transgenders, we can say
that very little has changed. Prejudice, discrimination,
and bigotry still exist, particularly those directed at
sexual minorities. This is sad, very sad, because
we do have pretensions about being a country
of tolerant, nurturing, caring people.
The separate incidents at Valkyrie where bouncers
of the club barred designer Veejay Floresca and
gay beauty queen Trixie Maristela from entering the bar,
allegedly because of the club’s dress code policies,
were discriminatory. The club has tried to contain the
damage by insisting that it did not discriminate against
transgenders, but the facts of the case are pretty clear
and straightforward. Even the club’s admission that their
people need training is already an admission that something
was wrong with their policies. But what disappointed
me more were the reactions of some people who basically
dismissed the incident like it was a non-issue.
There were those who scoffed at those who are up
in arms over the issue. The general drift of their opinion
was that there are thousands of other bars in Manila—
many of them friendly to transgenders—so why bother
about bars like Valkyrie. The answer is simple:
Because discrimination is wrong, bigotry is wrong,
regardless of who the victims or perpetrators are.
Bigotry and discrimination should have no place
in a civilized society as these are deeply rooted
in the same thing—hatred toward people they refuse
to acknowledge as their equals and therefore view
with contempt or derision.
Some have insisted that Valkyrie, being a private club,
has the right to impose its own dress codes and to refuse entry
to anyone who did not meet the standards it has set.
If Floresca and Maristela were refused entry because
they were wearing slippers, or basketball shorts,
or because they were stoned or drunk, people would not
have raised a howl. But they were refused entry
because of their sexual identity. Why should bars like Valkyrie
be allowed to continue to make money out of Filipinos
while promoting a caste system in the country?
There were those who said transgenders are not the only people
 who have rights, bar owners and other customers also have theirs.
I truly do not get the logic of this assertion because I just
cannot fathom how the rights of others have been disregarded
just because two transgenders wanted to attend a birthday
party inside Valkyrie, which they were invited to in the first place.
What exactly is taken away from everyone else when transgenders
and other sexual minorities demand humane or equal treatment?
I read some shoutouts from people who used the incident to
generalize, pointing out that many transgenders have been taking
way too much liberty parading in plazas or acting indecently in public.
I will admit that I have also been in situations where I was critical
of the behaviors of one or two transgenders inside a church.
But here’s the catch – I don’t think rudeness, crudeness, insensitivity, etc,
are traits that are specific to transgenders. It’s not fair to generalize
and judge all transgenders because of the actions of some, just as it is unfair
to generalize that all heterosexual men are drunks or chauvinists
just because we know some who are. Stereotyping is wrong and dangerous.
Then there were those who insisted that the issue was not discrimination,
but security for everyone else - that the club was just protecting everyone.
It’s as if transgenders have been known to start trouble anywhere.
And the assertion is exactly the reasoning behind prejudice directed
at blacks, or hispanics, or even Filipinos in certain places abroad.
It’s like saying certain people are associated with troublesome behavior,
just because of the color of their skin or their sexual identity.
Why should we care? Simple. Because if we don’t care, the bigots
and prejudiced people in this world will continue to think it is okay
to treat other people with contempt just because they are different.
They will not stop at transgenders.
Valkyrie was wrong to practice discrimination and we should
condemn the people behind the bar for doing so.

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