Toilet training
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph Gonzales (The Freeman) - August 18, 2019 - 12:00am

Let's talk about toilets. Or as they are also called "washrooms" or "comfort rooms".

There's a controversy in Quezon City involving toilets, as a transwoman, Gretchen Diez, was unceremoniously pulled out from a female comfort room in Farmer's Plaza mall. Earlier, she sought comfort from the room, but comfort was denied her when a janitress pulled her out and detained her. She was then brought to a police station, where she was charged for her behavior during the ensuing fracas.

The snafu quickly snowballed into a major incident, as LGBTQ+ activists trooped to the police station, decrying her treatment. Especially in Quezon City, which prides itself as the very first local government with an ordinance protecting the LGBTQ+ community against discrimination.

The antiquated Farmers Plaza, part of the Araneta group, hadn't yet implemented the ordinance requiring public establishments to provide gender-free toilets, so now it's in the crosshairs of the controversy, with an impending lawsuit by Diez.

Uh-oh. Not good public relations for the Araneta group, with its varied malls and establishments. Especially if the Quezon City government starts inspecting their other properties for compliance with the all-gender toilet requirement. Will we see the newly-elected mayor, Joy Belmonte, crack down on the powerful Araneta clan? Or will the might of the influential family deter any further fallout from this toilet troubles?

I listened over the radio as they tried to "cover" the unfolding events. The bombastic host of the program, with his falsely-modulated voice and canned quips, held forth on how we should all respect Diez for her choice of clothing or gender, which seemed like a good opening line, but quickly ruined it by continuing his train of thought with how he would not want his wife or daughter to share a toilet with a transwoman, with the male appendage still intact and everything.

Imagine, he asked his audience, if females were in the toilet and that appendage-sporting, male clad in female clothing walked in. And what if all that this person wanted to do was to peek on the women comforting themselves in the stalls. No, he told his audience, he certainly wouldn't want this.

No such thing as penis-envy here. More like fear.

He repeated this same inane fear-mongering thought maybe three or four times, while I shut my eyes, praying for my ride from the airport to mercifully end. No attempt to explore the issue, or provide alternative scenarios. It was just this scary peeping-tom message being hammered into his audience's ears.

What a waste. That could have been a teaching moment for him and his audience. He could have delved into what a reasonable alternative would be, or examined his fears to see how it could be addressed. But nope, his audience didn't get that thought-provoking opportunity. Too bad.

There is a lot of dialogue yet to occur on this issue. Many people will respond (as he did) with toilet prejudices or fears that might be addressed by simple discourse. Example, many coffee shops provide a single toilet and anyone can use it one-by-one. Not segregated into female or male, black or white, rich or poor.

Which was exactly the sentment of Diez, when she said in a press conference that she didn't want malls to build new restrooms for transwomen or LGBTQs. All she wanted was fair treatment, or equal access. That doesn't have to mean allowing transwomen into female toilets, or vice-versa.

Admittedly, we may not have all the answers at the moment. We may have to talk through concerns raised by our culture, upbringing, or even by sheer ignorance. But preachy ministers without the drive or curiosity to probe deeper ain't helping. Time for some potty-training, perhaps?

COMFORT ROOMS
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