Monday, May 26, 2008

An Open Letter of a Transgender Woman in the Philippines

Below is an open letter of Sass Rogando Sassot, a transgender woman, who experienced discrimination at one bar in Makati.

An Open Letter of a Transgender Woman in the Philippines
[25 May 2008 / Sunday / 6.04 AM to 6.45 AM]

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. - Eleanor Roosevelt

My friends and I have been made to feel inferior approximately five hours before I wrote this letter. I’d like to sweep this incident under the proverbial rug but there is no more space to accommodate it.

On the 24th of May 2008, my friends and I were celebrating the anniversary of our organization the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), the first transsexual women’s support group and transgender rights advocacy organization in the Philippines. We settled to celebrate it in Ice Vodka Bar, located in Greenbelt 3, 3rd level Ayala Center, Makati City, Metro Manila. It was my first time in that bar. Two in our group have been there before and they had nothing bad to say about it.

There were five of us. I was leading the way. The bouncer stopped us. I asked why. His reason was we were dressed “inappropriately”. We were rather dressed decently, tastefully, and most importantly just like any other human being who lives her life as female 24 hours a day.

I asked for the manager. The bouncer was nice enough to let me in. The manager, Ms Belle Castro, accommodated me. I don’t know if I spelled her name right. I asked for a business card but she had none available. Her telling feature though was her braced teeth.

I complained. Ms Castro listened to me. I found her sympathetic, even respectful as she addressed me all throughout as ma’am. She told me the following:

1. (Referring to my friends, and obviously to me) That “people like them” aren’t allowed in our bar every Fridays & Saturdays;

2. That that was an agreement between all the bars in Greenbelt (she particularly mentioned their bar, Absinthe, and Café Havana) and Ayala Corporation, the company which owns the Greenbelt Complex;

3. That the reason for this policy is: “Marami kasing foreigner na nag-kocomplain at napepeke daw sila sa mga katulad nila.” Loosely translated in English: “There are lots of foreigners complaining because they mistake people like them as real women”; and

4. That they have a “choice” to implement the policy.

I felt terribly hurt and uncontrollably agitated. This transphobic act is not the first time that it happened to me, to my friends, to people like us. To say that this has become almost a routine is an understatement.

I have shouted at Ms Castro several times, asking her why I’m f***ing experiencing racism in my own country and what gave f***ing foreigners the right to demand to block people like us to enter bars in our very own country.

Ms Castro tried to hush me by pulling the “It’s our choice card” and asked me to talk decently. I am not proud at all of using the F-word as my intensifier and of letting my emotions ran raw and wild. My warm apologies to Ms Castro for losing my cool. Just like any of us, I know, she was just doing her job.

This may not be the proper forum to raise this concern. But is there any reliable legal forum to address this issue? Reality check: there is no antidiscrimination law in this country. And if you’re discriminated, there seems to be a notion that you’re supposed to blame yourself for bringing such an unfortunate event to yourself.

So, I’d just stand up through this open letter.

I am standing for myself. I am standing for people like us. I am standing up because I, am, very, tired of this incivility. We have long endured this kind of treatment for far too long. Enough.

I’ll not go as far as campaigning for a boycott as it is definitely the simple workers that would suffer from any loss in revenue such an act may cause.

People like us would like to be treated just like any other human being. Just like those foreigners who complained about our existence: With dignity.

You know the civilized and ethical thing to do: Stop discrimination in your establishments.

Bigotry is never ethical nor a sound business strategy.


Ms Sass Rogando Sasot
Sass is one of the founding members of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP) [], an Associate Member of Transgender ASIA Research Centre, and a member of Ang Ladlad Party.

To have a dialogue with her regarding this incident, you may reach her at or through her mobile at +639276257010.

But the world is not all that bad and there are still good people out there who have even just a tinge of humanity in them. Thanks to formal and educated communication employed by Ms. Sassot, a lot of good developments regarding this case have taken place. And that’s all in a matter of less than a week.

Ms. Sassot shared the timeline and here is the long and short of it all: …..Click here to read more


Anonymous said...

what a disgrace!

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