US President-elect Joe Biden, in his historic first speech after winning the US election, addressed transgender people and other members of the LGBTQIA+ community. It is the first time a newly-elected US president has ever done it in an acceptance speech.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, a video of a transwoman being verbally assaulted by a lady while walking down the street went viral online. This sparked heated conversations once again about the plight of transgender people in the Philippines. The incident has also brought the SOGIE Equality Bill back to the headlines with hashtags like #SOGIEEqualityNow, #AchibDisBill, and #PassADBNow trending on Twitter for several weeks now.
The people from the LGBTQIA+ community have been fighting for the enactment of the SOGIE Equality Bill into law. Through this bill, members of LGBTQIA+ and others, regardless of their gender identities, are going to receive legal protection from plethora of gender-based discrimination, violence and abuse.
Before we discuss what SOGIE Equality Bill is about, let us first define what SOGIE is. Basically, SOGIE stands for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression.
It is also essential to first point out that gender is a social construct, and it is different from sex which is the genital organ you have at birth. As a social construct, the formation and performance of gender are, therefore, contingent to the culture, norms and institutions that regulate it. For instance, within the context of Philippine culture and society, the “woman” connotes meanings like “maganda”, “mahinhin” at “masunurin sa asawa” while “man” connotes being “malakas”, “matipuno”, and “maginoo medyo bastos.” These perceptions of what being a man or a woman is about might differ from other cultures like in the case of Amazonian or Nordic women who are not perceived as submissive to men. In short, gender as opposed to sex is not a natural phenomenon but a social and cultural construct. A woman is a gender, while female is sex. While a person who is born with vagina is generally considered as female, not every female is a woman. To be a woman, a girl has to achieve certain level of disposition. In the same way, not every woman is a female or has a vagina— while all women have balls figuratively speaking, some have it literally.
Now, let’s talk about sexual orientation which is basically what sex one is attracted to. It can be one, more than one, it can also be none. In this umbrella, we use the terms ‘heterosexual’ (people attracted to the opposite sex); ‘homosexual’ (also known as gays, lesbians, and many others, are people attracted to the same sex); ‘bisexual’ (can be attracted on both sexes); ‘asexual’ (people who do not have sexual attraction); and ‘pansexual’ (people who can be attracted to everyone regardless of their sex or gender), among others.
On the other hand, gender identity radiates from one’s inner sense of self. Here, we can see if one is ‘cisgender’ (someone whose gender ‘matches’ his/her/their biological sex); and ‘transgender’ (someone whose gender is opposite to his/her/their biological sex). Gender expression is based on how one identifies himself/herself/themselves as. These are socially-constructed notions such as masculinity, femininity, being genderqueer, et cetera.
The SOGIE Equality Bill
The SOGIE Equality Bill, otherwise known as the Anti-Discrimination Bill (ADB) has been in Congress as early as 2017. It ignited controversy in 2019 when Gretchen Diez, a transgender woman was harassed while trying to enter the women’s bathroom.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, one of the supporters of the bill, posted an infographic that shows the misconceptions about the bill and what the bill really is about— that is, to protect the rights of people regardless of what their SOGIE is.
It is always important to know that gender-based divides are still present up to this day, especially to people from the LGBTQIA+ community. If you take a look at the provisions of the SOGIE bill, it clearly states that protection from discrimination is inclusive to everyone.
The bill is all about putting the LGBTQIA+ community into the society by giving them the spotlight or positive affirmation in workplaces, in schools, and other social services that should and must be celebrated by everyone.
Aside from the ones mentioned by Senator Hontiveros, one thing that bothers me a lot is that some people claim that the SOGIE bill tolerates pedophilia and necrophilia. To begin with, these are not part of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. The SOGIE bill is for people regardless of their gender, and the gender that they are attracted to. The likes of pedophilia and necrophilia, albeit related to sexual desire, do not involve attraction to a certain gender.
The SOGIE bill also does not unduly favor the LGBTQIA+ community over anybody else. Everybody has their own SOGIE, and this bill basically protects everyone from all forms of discrimination. Everybody deserves to freely express themselves and equally celebrate their rights.
For the longest time, the LGBTQIA+ community has been the face of entertainment and ridicule. Gay and transgender people are viewed as clowns and entertainers. But this begs the question: how can we make other people happy when we ourselves cannot celebrate our own happiness?
The SOGIE Equality Bill is long overdue. It has to be passed now! The era when being members of LGBTQIA+ is considered as taboo, immoral and a disgrace to one’s family should stop now!
We should understand and accept that everyone, regardless of their SOGIE, is valid.
Currently residing in Manila, Liam Atienza is a University student taking up BA International Studies who writes poetry and prose in his spare time and hopes to be a drag artist and diplomat or scholar someday. For leads, you can email him at email@example.com, or in Twitter via @theliamatienza.
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