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Categorized | Advocacy, Gender Rights

Reclaiming the Humanity of Filipino Transgender People

Discrimination dehumanizes.

It takes away the humanity of the person and replaces it with a sense of inferiority, such as being considered as “non-human animals,” or being called the “lie of the Devil,” or being excluded from “God’s creation.”

The link between dehumanization and discrimination has been shown in a study conducted by Jennifer Eberhardt, an associate professor of psychology at Stanford University. In her study Not Yet Human: Implicit Knowledge, Historical Dehumanization and Contemporary Consequences, Eberhardt saw positive correlation between “violence against black criminal suspects…and the inability to accept African Americans as fully human.” But it’s not only blacks who can be discriminated – everyone can be subjected to dehumanization. So long as you don’t match the idea of what the “perfect” human is, chances are you will experience discrimination. Your perceived “imperfection” might be brought about by your skin color, ethnicity, economic status, (non)religious belief, (dis)ability, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity.

In Bangalore, India blacks are routinely denied entry in pubs and bars. One head of marketing for a sports bar was quoted as saying that they were doing this because of “security reasons and not racism, [and that their] other clients were uncomfortable with black-skinned people around.” Deplorable isn’t it? What if we replace “blacks” with “crossdressers” or “transgender women,” and change the setting of the incident, say a bar in Makati, Philippines called Icon? Would we still think that this is a deplorable act?

Some would say that Icon, as a private enterprise, has a “right to choose” their customers. Some claim that this is only right, for the Bible says, “God only created men and women” and not “crossdressers and transgender women.” Others say “there are other bars.” Similar lines of thinking were offered before to justify racial discrimination. Liberty, religion and the Bible, and apathy have all been used by slaveholders to justify slavery.

If dehumanizing one group of people has been historically adjudged as wrong, how then can we judge the present dehumanization of another group as right? Do we really consider it moral to reduce the humanity of another person into an inferiority that we can bash? What happens to liberty when it includes the license to dehumanize? Why do we let religion and the Bible become weapons of mass dehumanization rather than let them stay as a way to appreciate the profound beauty and mysteries of life, just like poetry? Can apathy ever end dehumanization?

What happened in Icon may be considered trivial. That may be true in a society which considers dehumanization as taboo – but we don’t live in such a society yet. We still have a long way to go. Our lifetime may not be enough to witness a Philippines that has already fully come to terms with the humanity of gay, lesbian, bisexual, bakla, bayot, and transgender people. But there’s an oasis of redemption in the middle of the desert of suffering: We can always look back to our nation’s pre-colonial past for inspiration: A time when crossing gender was not considered a sin, a disease, and a source of humiliation, but was respected, highly-esteemed, and revered by our ancestors. What changed? What led to the dehumanization of these people? It’s time to reclaim their humanity. Stop discrimination!

End the dehumanization of Filipino transgender people!


“Transgender rights is the radical notion that transgender people are humans” is a spin-off of “feminism is the radical notion that women are humans.”

DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.