Distressing Wensha Spa Center (Outrage Magazine)
This is in support of Ms Bemz Benedito, Ang Ladlad chairperson, who had the misfortune of confronting the ugly face of transphobia due to the lack of gender awareness of Wensha Spa Center in Panay Ave. cor. Timog Ave. in Quezon City.
The Human Rights Campaign (www.hrc.org) earlier noted that transgender people are "often targeted for hate violence based on their non-conformity with gender norms and/or their perceived sexual orientation," with approximately 15 transgendered people actually losing their lives every year in the US alone due to hate-based attacks. And while the Philippines does not have the likes of HRC to keep track of hate crimes as they happen in the country, that transphobic acts like Wensha's happen in the country is proof that hatred continues to be directed at those defying heteronormative social dictates.
Before the midnight of March 16, Ms Benedito asked her sister to join her for some pampering at the Wensha Spa Center. What transpired, instead, was nothing relaxing, but – borrowing Ms Benedito's words – "a test of fortitude."
Ms Benedito was not allowed to occupy the female area by the lady guard on duty for the evening, as well as another staff, since both identified her as a "he".
Recalling her experience later, Ms Benedito said she "capsized and distressed, but stood my ground nevertheless." Refusing to be bowed, she added: "The transgender community has been assailed lately again but we remain vigorous."
While the people behind Wensha may not be aware of advances in gender discussions – e.g. in 2010, France removed transsexualism from its official list of mental disorders – it ought to know that (just as stated in 2008 by the American Psychological Association) "discrimination and prejudice against people based on their actual or perceived gender identity or expression detrimentally affects psychological, physical, social, and economic well-being." With the occurrence in Wensha, it had just become a vessel of hatred that is actually detrimental to everyone, not just to Ms Benedito. After all, wasn't it stated by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly"?
Writing the basis for the International Bill of Gender Rights in 1990, JoAnn Roberts Ph.D. rightfully stated that "every human being has within themselves an idea of who they are and what they are capable of achieving. That identity and capability shall not be limited by a person's physical or genetic sex, nor by what any society may deem as 'masculine' or 'feminine' behavior. It is fundamental, then, that each individual has the right to assume gender roles congruent with one's self-perceived identity and capabilities, regardless of physical sex, genetic sex, or sex role.
"Therefore, no person shall be denied their Human and/or Civil Rights on the basis that their gender role or perceived gender role is not congruent with their genetic sex, physical sex, or sex role."
And just as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) stated, "The rights to free expression, assembly, and association, are recognized in international human rights law as universal rights. Specific populations are not excluded from these rights."
The people behind Wensha need to educate themselves.
And everyone pushing for equality needs to call these people's attention to ensure that they get that education – and hopefully gender awareness – that they badly need.
Reach Wensha at phone numbers (+632) 3751398 and 3725822, or fax number is (+632) 3730617.
Else, let the discontent reach the Spa Association of the Philippines at (+632) 5219904, 4689338; fax (+632) 521-9904; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All forms of discrimination need to be confronted if the intent is the formation of a just and humane society.