'Call them sir or ma'am,' Risa says amid senators' SOGIE 'confusion'

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — With discrimination experienced by a trans woman at a mall in Quezon City prompting a renewed push for passage of the SOGIE Equality bill, some lawmakers admitted confusion on what LGTBQIA+ means.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday brought to the Senate floor on Thursday the discrimination that trans woman Gretchen Diez experienced at Farmers Plaza in Cubao.

Diez wanted to use the restroom to pee, but she found herself in handcuffs and brought to Camp Karingal after a cleaning staff verbally harrassed and barred her from using the female restroom.

“What this underscores, Mr. President, is that there is a grave and urgent need for a SOGIE Equality Bill. The time has come to say that we will not allow that LGBTQI persons would be handcuffed, slapped, insulted because of gender,” Hontiveros stressed.

SOGIE refers to sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Some senators however admitted to confusion with the terms in the anti-discrimination bill that "seeks to protect individuals and communities that experience human rights violations on the basis of SOGIE."

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More letters, more gender identities in the LGBTQIA+

Senator Koko Pimentel wanted to know what the letters in LGTBQIA+ mean.

“Does this ever end?” he added in Filipino.

Hontiveros explained that more identities have been added as people learn more about human sexuality.

“There are a lot of colors, a lot of shades... so the spectrum may be forever being further refined as we continue to know more about ourselves,” she said in Filipino.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III noted that the LGTBQIA+ has become a mouthful, as more letters were added to it.

“Why not just homo sapiens? We’re all the same,” he pointed out.

Sotto added: “Why do we have to segregate the gays from the lesbians from the straight guys?”

Hontiveros explained that there would not have been a need to “segregate” if there was no discrimination.

“I agree with you, if the human civilization and our societies evolved to the point that there is no discrimination, there is equality for all, regardless of identity, regardless of expression. But this did not happen,” she said.

Transgender, transsexual, transvestite

Sotto said he wanted clarity on the differences between a transgender, transsexual and a transvestite.

Hontiveros explained that transvestite is "an old term" that tends to be derogatory.

"Their self-identification as transpersons is either transman, transwoman, transgender or transsexual," she said.

“Transgender is a more all embracing term,” she added. Persons who identify as transgender are those whose gender identity does not conform with the sexual organ they were born with, which is also called the assigned sex.

Those who may have undergone an operation to change their sex meanwhile identify themselves as transsexual.

She added that transsexual may be deemed a “subset” of the transgender.

Gordon: Policeman? Policewoman? Policequeer?

Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate’s blue ribbon committee, meanwhile said that this may pose a change in how the public addresses other people.

"How would you now call a police LGBTQ?... Police queer? Or if he is a gay police officer?" Gordon asked.

Hontiveros replied that they may just be referred to as "sir" or "ma'am", and a police rank may be added too.

The senator also said that they may be easily referred to as a police officer.

Rep. Geraldine Roman (Bataan), who is a transgender woman, is adressed representative or congresswoman.

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