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Mae & Rio: Two Stories of Discrimination

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Posted by Ate Pau ( Tue Jul 29, 2008 1:40 pm):

To most of us, this weekend would have been spent having fun, taking a rest and relaxing. Not to Mae and Rio, two women of transgender experience, who had to spend this weekend worrying about the coming week. Mae, who is just a week in training for a call center job, is afraid she might lose her recently acquired employment while Rio, who is on her third year in Nursing school, is agonizing about not being able to graduate despite doing well in school and just having a year to go. Both women are nervous about what the new week will bring. Both women are being punished for their transgender status.


When Mae attended her pre-employment orientation, she was informed that she could dress female as long as she followed the company’s dress code. So that’s exactly what she did. From Monday to Thursday last week, she dressed in business casual. On Friday, she wore a blouse over black pants and sneakers. Needing to use the bathroom upon arrival at work Friday afternoon, she rushed to the women’s bathroom as was her wont.

Five minutes later while powdering her face in front of the bathroom mirror, Mae heard the voice of a security guard ordering her to get out. The guard stood by the bathroom door barking reasons at Mae why she did not belong to the women’s bathroom. Shocked, Mae tried to explain to the guard that she was female. The guard was belligerent, however, and threatened her if she did not step out.

Humiliated and scandalized by the growing number of onlookers, Mae thought she had no choice. She left the bathroom in tears. Later, Mae’s trainer told her that the company had an unspoken rule that bakla employees were not allowed to use the women’s bathroom. Mae said that she understood that if by bakla the trainer meant men who identified as male and presented as such and were attracted to other males. Mae tried to explain that she did not identify as one and that her gender identity was female as evinced by how she presented in public. Moreover, Mae pointed out the company’s core values which included belief in diversity. Mae thought this explained the company’s allowance for employees to wear the clothing of the gender they identify as. If the company lets her dress as female because that’s how she sees herself and is seen by others, then why can’t she use the corresponding bathroom?

The trainer could not give Mae clear answers but promised Mae that she would do something about it. Mae decided to raise her concerns with the Human Resources (HR) department. Today, July 29, 2008, Tuesday, Mae is set to meet with HR. Mae is apprehensive about this impending meeting. This weekend it’s all that she could think about.


For five semesters, Rio attended Nursing school wearing the women’s uniform. All her classmates and teachers referred to her as Miss Rio and she looked forward to finishing her studies and becoming a nurse. Rio has spent the last five semesters happy in the university which her boyfriend also attends.

Sometime in July, after one of the security guards saw that Rio’s name on her ID was male, Rio was asked to go into the Office of Student Affairs (OSA). There the OSA Head discussed the next steps to take regarding Rio’s “true” identity. The OSA Head decided that from then on Rio should be addressed as male and required to wear the men’s uniform.

Rio protested and made it clear to the school official that she did not identify as male, which is why she did not once come to school as one. The OSA head argued that until Rio’s gender in her official documents remains unchanged, the school is officially treating her as a man.

Rio decided that her best recourse was to meet immediately with the President of the university to discuss her case. The President’s secretary scheduled a meeting for July 28, 2008, Monday. In the mean time, last Thursday, Rio showed up in school dressed as she had always been the last three years. The security guard, who let her in, in the past, now refused her entry. According to him, the OSA head left instructions to make sure that Rio came in wearing the prescribed uniform for male students. Feeling shamed and helpless, Rio just went back home. Already, she has missed two days of classes. This weekend, nothing else but her imminent meeting with the university President has been on her mind. Rio spent the last two days, restless, anxious and afraid. Like Mae, she fears for her future.

Education and employment remain the two crucial areas where Filipino transgender people struggle for full participation. Despite comprising a big chunk of the total population and being acknowledged as part of a culture that dates back to pre-colonial times, transgender citizens of this country continue to face hurdles in trying to finish school and being gainfully employed. It’s time to put a stop to this oppression. It’s time to open the doors to full transgender inclusion.


biatch said...

I don't know what call center company that is but i used to work as tech support at the biggest call center here in Davao and i had a fellow agent Kim who is a transgender and she is treated like a female. she gets to use comfort rooms for females and she can dress any way she likes and asfar as i know, she is treated like who she is, a female. I just hope that discrimination such as this would stop.

jericho said...

discrimination sucks. hope they get what's due to them.

Yffar said...


di na namention yung company and school. yung call center ko rin dati kasi yung supervisor ko mismo transgender... sa school naman namin walang uniform.. depende sa school kung may mga ganung klaseng rules and regulations.

Anonymous said...

dapat matigil na ng discrimination na yan.

hindi na tayo makapamuhay ng normal.

leviuqse said...

god! i hate discrimination!

Yffar said...

it does...

so do i...

hays... im tired na from work..

enchong said...

DISCRIMINATION is motivated by hatred. If we begin to love ourselves, if we try to put an end to this hatred, discrimination on may cease to exist we live in a very tribal society.


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