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This Filipino trans woman was barred from entering a women's fitting room. Here's what the Philippines could be doing better

By AYIE LICSI Published Oct 19, 2022 4:13 pm

Despite having an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community in place, a trans woman shopping at a fashion boutique in Taguig was shunned from using the women's fitting room.

This was just one example of the many acts of discrimination that trans women face, and it further shows our country's need to pass the SOGIE Equality Bill now.

Louis Marasigan, a trans woman, was shopping at ZARA in Bonifacio Global City but she wasn't able to try on the clothes in her basket because an employee told her she couldn't use the women's fitting room. She was then directed to use the men's fitting room. This was the first time Marasigan experienced such discrimination, she told PhilSTAR L!fe.

"Andito tayo ngayon sa ZARA sa BGC and ayan bumibili tayo ng mga clothes natin," Marasigan said in the video. "Di ko na siya naisukat. I was downstairs—siyempre I'm a trans woman so sa women's clothing ako namimili. When I entered the fitting room, sabi ni ate, dun daw ako sa taas mag-fit. I kindly asked why. Sabi niya doon daw yung fitting room ng men."

"I clearly stated that I am a trans woman. Sabi niya may mga nagrereklamo daw. Di ko na pinahaba pa, di ako nakipag-away. Di ko nalang sinukat, binili ko nalang yung admit."

Marasigan later said that there was nobody in the women's fitting room but her and her sister. She was also repeatedly called "Sir" by the employee despite saying she is a trans woman.

She complained to the manager, who she said was gay and also a member of the LGBTQ+ community, but received no support from him.

'Trans women are women'

Since the incident, members of the LGBTQ+ community started speaking up online and rallying behind Marasigan. They stressed the importance of the SOGIE Equality Bill and how incidents like these would be prevented with it in place.

"MISS Louis Marasigan IS NOT A MAN. MISS LOUIS IS A TRANS WOMAN, WHO FREELY EXPRESSES AS A WOMAN," trans activist Mela Habijan said on Facebook. "Trans women are women."

"A lot of Filipinos still don't recognize trans women as women. Dahil sa pisikal—katawan, bosses, hitsura, at ari na mayroon kami... Hindi lahat ng 'male' sa birth certificate ay lalaki. Mayroong mga kagaya namin—trans women. Babae sa isip, puso, at kaluluwa."

Habijan then called on Zara Philippines to have an open discussion about sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) with their employees. She also called on Taguig's local government to strictly implement the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance in place.

PANTAY Tayo's Vince Liban also expressed dismay at ZARA for the incident. "It's disappointing to have seen ZARA attend Pride events but allow discrimination to happen in their stores. Hope they implement trans-inclusive policies. Clothes don't have gender! Trans women are women!"

In 2018, Taguig passed Ordinance No. 3 Series of 2018 prohibiting the discrimination of any person in use of facilities and services based on their ethnicity, religious affiliations or beliefs, sex, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, physical appearance, and physical or mental disability.

Where's the SOGIE Equality Bill now?

A national law protecting Filipinos against gender-based discrimination, the SOGIE Equality Bill, has yet to be passed. Sen. Risa Hontiveros revived the bill in the 19th Congress in June 2022.

"I'm ready to get back to work. We will use this 19th Congress to carve the runway to pass the SOGIE Equality Bill at long last. We will use this as a fresh opportunity to renew and prioritize our fight for all sexualities and genders," Hontiveros said.

Trans and gender non-binary individuals are more vulnerable to discrimination, hate crime, and violence, with The Fuller Project reporting over 50 cases of trans murder since 2008—the death toll could be higher.

The bill won't grant members of the LGBTQ+ community additional or "special" rights, but instead recognize their rights regardless of how they identify. Previous iterations of the bill indicate that it would also penalize discrimination against a queer individual, with offenders getting a P100,000 to P500,000 fine or imprisonment.

Zara Philippines has not yet issued a statement on the matter.