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Beach resort faces backlash after alleged discrimination against transgender woman guest

By PINKY S. ICAMEN Published May 12, 2021 10:07 pm

Conversations on equality, diversity and inclusion have been gaining traction for quite a while now, but a transgender woman’s experience at a beach resort in Davao del Norte shows that society still has a long way to go when it comes to ensuring fair treatment and opportunity for all.

Shannon Remotigue Gonzaga, who identifies as a transgender woman, took to Facebook on Monday, May 10, to share how she was discriminated against during her stay at Isla Reta Beach Resort in Talikud Island in Samal, Davao del Norte.

In her post, Gonzaga wrote in Cebuano that the incident occurred around 6 p.m. on May 8, when she was about to take a shower at the resort’s women’s bathroom. Gonzaga was denied entry by the attendant and was told to use the men’s bathroom instead.

Bawal ka diri, sa pikas ka kay gay ka (you are not allowed here. Go to the men’s bathroom because you are gay),” she was told.

Gonzaga, who has been taking hormones since she was 18 years old, explained to the attendant that she is a transgender woman and not gay. The attendant allegedly told Gonzaga that only transgender women who already had gender reassignment surgery are allowed to use the women’s restroom. 

In her recount, Gonzaga said her aunt even stepped in and told the attendant that Gonzaga already underwent gender reassignment surgery. The attendant allegedly asked for proof—a video—showing her vagina if she really has undergone the procedure.

After she was not allowed in the women’s bathroom, Gonzaga decided to go ahead and change in her tent. She then went to the resort’s upper management to air her complaint and tell them that she was embarrassed by how the resort staff treated her when she asked for consideration to take a shower.

Gonzaga said she was expecting that the management would take her side but was surprised when the person responded, “Ai, bawal talaga! Kay gay ka! (You’re not allowed to enter because you are gay!)” 

With the management’s response, Gonzaga walked away, frustrated, because “obvious kaayo na transphobic og homophobic ang owner ani na resort (it is obvious that the owner of the resort is transphobic and homophobic).”

As of this writing, Gonzaga’s post raked in over 2,000 comments and over 10,000 shares and reactions.

Meanwhile, on May 12, Isla Reta Beach Resort posted on its Facebook page that it will not be able to accommodate transgender people because it has no facilities for them. The resort also said the move was made “to avoid issues of discrimination.”

The resort’s Facebook post was met with much criticism from netizens while others defended the resort’s decision.

After receiving backlash from its post, the resort clarified its earlier statement saying that it has received complaints from “women guests” that they do not feel safe and comfortable with transgender women using the same shower room with them. According to the resort’s statement, its shower facilities have several shower heads but no separate cubicles for privacy.

“In order to avoid being labeled as discriminatory or discriminating against transgenders as we have no facility for them or that we cannot allow them to use the female shower room, we issued the statement that we cannot accommodate them as of the moment that we have no facility for them,” said the resort.

It also reiterated that the resort is neither homophobic nor transphobic and members of the LGBTQ+ are welcome at Isla Reta. “But please respect the management’s policy on using the shower rooms and CR as we have to consider and protect our guests, particularly the women’s rights and privacy.”

After Gonzaga’s story made rounds on social media, LGBTQ+ organizations in Mindanao condemned the reported discriminatory policy at Isla Reta Beach Resort against the transgender community.

Mindanao Pride organization, together with its partner organizations, released a joint statement titled “Ang pagpamanlaw walay gi-ilang pagkatawo (Rinsing or washing knows no identity).”

“Rinsing or washing is a normal act of hygiene. In the context of COVID-19, washing is a vital preventive measure in the fight against the pandemic which everyone should be able to do regardless of gender and sexuality,” the statement said.

The organizations are also calling for the House of Representatives to pass the SOGIE Equality Bill “to prevent various economic and public accommodation-related acts of discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.”

In addition, the organizations—composed of Mindanao Pride; Kagay-an Preserving Life, Uniting Society Inc.; Mujer-LGBT Zamboanga Inc., Olympus Society of Davao Inc. and TAHUD PH (formerly Ladlad Caraga)—are also calling the attention of the Department of Tourism to strengthen its Gender and Development (GAD) programs and mechanisms to respond to gender issues in the tourism sector.