Ang Ladlad says ‘no’ to separate restrooms
I am back after a short absence, since I have retired from teaching and now working for an international development organization. I would like to publicize Ang Ladlad’s stand on separate toilets, an ordinance filed by a Provincial Board Member in Cebu.
Cebu Provincial Board Member, Arleigh Sitoy, recently filed an ordinance requiring business establishments in the province to designate a separate restroom exclusively for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTs). The ordinance's explanatory note says, "Separate restroom is the solution to end the confusion of what public restroom should a member of the LGBT avail for them to feel safe, comfortable and convenient wherein there are only male and female comfort rooms."
While Ang Ladlad lauds and appreciates the intent of Mr. Sitoy to address the needs and concerns of LGBTs, its members, especially from the Cebu chapter, have expressed strong reservations about this ordinance. Ang Ladlad believes that a separate restroom for LGBTs perpetuates our already marginalized existence.
Jubelle Toledo, one of Ladlad's focal points in Cebu City, stresses that, "requiring all establishments to put up a separate facility means that LGBTs are being treated differently and this could isolate or marginalize us even more. It is also another form of discrimination." Toledo was also puzzled where Mr. Sitoy got the idea that LGBTs in Cebu are confused on what restroom to use.
Ms. Bemz Benedito, the Chairperson of Ang Ladlad, further explains, "I am a transgender woman and so I use the female restroom. LGBTs get confused on what restroom to use when other people start calling their attention on this matter." She added, "We think that Provincial Board Member Sitoy has good intentions, but this proposed ordinance could potentially alienate and isolate LGBT Filipinos from the rest of society. However, we do need more public officials like him who are sympathetic to the cause."
Atty. Germaine Leonin, the Vice-Vhairperson of Ang Ladlad, suggests that the local legislators should conduct consultation meetings with their LGBT constituents to know what issues and concerns they face and what responses need to be done.
"I am appealing to Mr. Sitoy to talk to the local LGBT community instead, and ask them about their concerns and address those issues through proper legislation," Leonin stressed. "Why not pass a local version of the Anti-discrimination Bill?" she asked.
Ang Ladlad Partylist is a national organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos, which has members all over the country as well as abroad.
Comments can be sent to email@example.com. This column is the author’s own opinion and does not represent that of GTZ, German Technical Cooperation, where he works as the Communications Manager.