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Toilet Politics

August 17, 2019 - Saturday 4:08 AM by E.R. Nartatez

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Let me be very clear: discrimination is evil and must not be tolerated. All forms of mistreatment must be called out and condemned.

However, there are issues and situations that are not as clear-cut, thus requiring careful thought and nuanced discussion. This is critically relevant especially in the current ethos of political correctness.

I am not a fan of political correctness (PC); it creates more problems than it solves (if it does actually solve anything). PC culture tends to quickly and unjustly label (demonize!) people as sexist, racist, bigot, (whatever)-phobe, ad nauseum just because they have a different take on a hot button PC issue, or simply for raising legitimate queries on the matter. It also stifles healthy dialogue and debate on controversial social issues that cry out for clarity of understanding. Even when there should only be disagreements of opinions and perspectives, PC creates offenses and makes enemies, ‘You disagree with me? Then you’re against me--we’re enemies!”

And so I get pretty concerned when our lawmakers are reduced to knee-jerk reactions on certain issues due to PC pressure.

Recently, an incident in a Quezon City (QC) mall created a lot of discussions. A trans woman (biological male self-identifying as female and goes by the name Gretchen Custodio Diez) was prevented from using the ladies’ toilet by a mall personnel (a woman). The reports say that the mall personnel approached and informed Diez to use the men’s restroom. Apparently, there was an altercation that followed. What happened next is not so clear. But it seems that the quarrel between Diez and the mall personnel was serious enough that mall management got involved.

Usually, mall management handles such situations internally. But apparently, they could not resolve the problem and called for police assistance, and filed a complaint of unjust vexation against Diez (Diez was briefly detained but was released when the mall dropped the charge). Diez also filed a complaint against the mall for violating QC’s gender-fair ordinance. The reports say that Diez and the mall attendant settled things between them.

Lawmakers and public officials were quick to pronounce this as a “violation of human rights.” QC mayor Joy Belmonte said, "We do not support any kind of violence and discrimination in our city. Sa atin pong LGBT+ community, protektado ang karapatan ninyo sa QC."

I’m not a witness to the incident. There was a video taken, I believe, by Diez. But it shows only a portion of what happened, not the entire incident. I don’t know how the altercation started; who said what, how was it said, and so forth (partial video clips that go viral in social media are notoriously untrustworthy, e.g., the entire brouhaha on the Covington kids incident, see Wiki article ‘January 2019 Lincoln Memorial confrontation’). 

And I don’t know why the situation apparently got a bit messy that mall management felt the need to call for police assistance (was that really necessary?). I don’t want to dwell on that. I simply want to bring up issues that require clarification. Here are a few:

  • I don’t know the specific provision of QC’s gender-fair ordinance, but I gather from the reports that the ordinance requires public places such as malls to provide all-gender restrooms alongside, I presume, traditional biologically segregate ones (‘Men’s’ and ‘Ladies’’). If so, these follow:

  • The mall is primarily at fault here for failing to provide all-gender restrooms.

  • The mall attendant was merely doing what she believed was her job (make sure things are in place).

  • Diez, seeing that there was no all-gender toilet, went to the Ladies’ restroom (the mall’s fault per city ordinance).

  • Now here I’m unsure if the city’s gender-fair ordinance--that places like malls are required to provide all-gender toilets--specifically includes giving trans women open access to the traditional biologically segregated restroom for ‘Ladies’.

  • "The LGBT community might be a minority but they are still Filipinos whose rights have to be protected." Transgender Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, said. And I FULLY agree. The rights of EVERY Filipino must be recognized and protected.

  • But what is a “right”? What makes something a genuine “natural right”? What is the difference between, say a “right” from an “entitlement” (provided for by the government but not guaranteed, IOW, entitlements are not equal to formal “natural rights”), or from mere claims? These issues need to be clarified, otherwise, there will be social confusion and conflict.

  • A person, say a biological female, can self-identify as male and is absolutely free to do so. And vice versa. This is democracy. But is it necessarily a “human rights” issue for a trans woman to insist on using a traditionally gendered toilet for biological women? This is a legitimate question and requires clarification.

  • Some trans people express the concern that they risk abuse when they get into “Men's” toilets (from bullies). We already have laws against such abusive behavior, and violators must be made to suffer the full force of the law.

  • On the other side, there are biological females who are simply not comfortable when they feel that their space as a biological female is “violated” by the presence of biological males (whether trans or not). What about their “rights” to their “privacy”? Do we consider their concerns as well? Or is it politically incorrect to even raise the issue?

  • In other countries there are serious growing concerns of potential dangers from sexual predators pretending to be trans so as to have access to Ladies’ toilets, baths and changing rooms (see The Washington Post Article ‘Yes, we should protect transgender people but we’re going about it in a dangerous way’ here and from an FRC Issue Brief here). This is a real concern that must be considered. Potential victims as well as the transgender community need to be protected from these pretending predators.

  • As of the moment, I think the most workable solution is to have the traditionally gendered toilets and a gender-neutral or all-gender toilet made available. Win-win solution, peace to all.

  • If we fail to engage in healthy social, civil conversations about such issues, and if our lawmakers fail to provide clear-headed leadership on the matter (but merely cater to PC), then there will be social confusion and conflict. We will have problems such as the notorius ongoing ‘Jessica Yaniv’ case in Canada (see here and here or here’s a video expose of this Yaniv from a transgender YouTuber named Blaire White here). 

 

There are many other issues and questions on this controversial matter. The above are my initial thoughts. As a nation we’re already faced with many controversies and conflicts. Avoiding more through civil discourse will be healthy for our society, and for our future.

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