We are all allies!

Published March 7, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Congresswoman Geraldine Roman

Women’s Month is a special time of the year not just for women but also for men and those who consider themselves allies in the fight for women’s rights and gender equality.

Congresswoman Geraldine Roman (Federico Cruz / Manila Bulletin)
Congresswoman Geraldine Roman (Federico Cruz / Manila Bulletin File Photo)

And that includes members of the LGBTQ community of which I am proudly a member, as a woman with the transgender experience.

As we start our women’s month celebrations, I am particularly thrilled as vice-chairperson of the Committee on Women and Gender Equality of the House of Representatives to join the celebrations being held in our country and in the whole world.

It is my firm belief that when women get together, when women take over the reigns, not only of power, but more importantly of service, the world become a less-complicated and a better place to live in.

This is inevitable – with our innate capacity to love, nurture and understand, our charisma and sharp sense of diplomacy, our eloquence, our empathy and compassion as well as our beauty both inside and out, no one can resist us.

Truly, as Beyonce proudly sings out, we women- run the world! I am also proud of the fact that in the Committee on Women and Gender Equality, we are taking strides to protect and advance women’s rights and gender equality through the various legislative measures that have been authored not only by women but also by our male colleagues.

We are now in the process of amending our Anti-Violence against Women and their Children (VAW-C)Act to include online abuse, so prevalent in social media nowadays.

We are also trying to lobby for the passage of a measure that will require the establishment of Crisis Centers for Abused Women and their Children in all provinces in our country.

On a personal and more intimate note, however, I want to celebrate this month because I want to pay tribute to the many women who have positively influenced the challenging journey that is my life as a transwoman.

If there is a Geraldine Roman, the first transgender woman to hold a seat in Congress, serving the 1st District of Bataan as well as the entire Filipino nation as a legislator, I owe it to the many women who have loved, accepted, understood and supported me throughout my 53 years of existence.

During Women’s Month, how can I not remember my loving and pious grand- mother who despite my very effeminate behavior as a “young girl trapped in a boy’s body”, did not judge me but rather taught me the basics of my Catholic faith through prayers and example?

The most valuable lesson I learned from her is compassion and charity towards our fellow human beings regardless of our differences.

And how can I not call to mind my mother, former Rep. Herminia Roman, that strong-willed businesswoman who tried to instill in me the values of honesty, hard work and discipline?

I will always remember this sound piece of advice from my mother, who also happens to be my strongest role model: since you are determined to become a woman, might as well do your best! Be the best woman that you can be decent, refined, intelligent, diligent and beautiful!

Well I’d like to tell my mom that I am trying my best because I look up so much to Womanhood I don’t want to let anyone down.

There is also my adopted sister, Regina, who passed away 6 years ago, my girl cousins who were my playmates (I will never forget their Barbie dolls), my indulgent titas, my female teachers, my female and LGBTQ beshies from elementary to college…I want to thank them for the love, acceptance, guidance and for just being there in my lowest moments when others would judge me or ridicule me.

In Congress, I only have words of gratitude for my female colleagues as well as our macho counterparts for welcoming me with open arms, for treating me with the respect and dignity that is due all human beings regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, physical appearance and sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

I always feel touched when the Association of Women Legislators would always insist on making me join its activities because some of my colleagues in Congress, fortunately just a very few, do not even consider me a woman. It touches my heart when my male colleagues treat me like a lady, being the gentlemen that they are.

I remember a conversation I had with a colleague of mine from the Central Luzon bloc. He told me “Geraldine, it’s because you are different. You deserve to be treated well because you act like a lady.

You are refined, you are not boisterous nor escandalosa…” I would like, however, to tell my colleagues and to all those who consider me a lady that if Geraldine Roman is refined, educated and confidently beautiful with a heart, it is because she is fortunate.

She is privileged to have received the best kind of education and values formation her parents were able to afford.

She was able to access jobs without discrimination save for a couple of in stances in her life. But more importantly, she was accepted and loved unconditionally by the people that truly mattered in her life like her family, her colleagues in Congress and the people of Bataan.

I am so lucky! And so the question that comes to my mind, from my position of privilege is this: Will I just sit back and relax and enjoy my privileged position and ignore the plight of many Filipino LGBTQ’s who have not been as fortunate in life? Will I turn my back to the many transwomen who, admittedly are uncouth, boisterous, physically unattractive and who are simply products of their socioeconomic circumstances?

There are those who have had to resort to prostitution in order to survive because they cannot access work.

There are those who are constantly ridiculed because they do not pass as cis women.

There are also those, who despite their shining educational background and professional abilities are still being obliged to cut their hair in order to teach in a public school or work in a factory as if the length of our hair had something to do with our ability to work.

Will I deprive them of their inherent and basic rights, as human beings and as Filipino citizens, simply because they are LGBTQ who just happen to be perceived as unattractive, vulgar and poor?

My answer is NO. And the question I want to ask my fellow legislators and policy-makers in our country is this: Will we continue to ignore the many cases of discrimination in our country or will we be brave enough to pass legislation that will prohibit discrimination?

While others may want to separate the fight for women’s rights from LGBTQ rights, I want to point that the plight of the LGBTQ is no different from the suffering women have had to endure throughout history.

Women are discriminated against simply because they are women and the LGBTQ are being discriminated against simply because they are LGBTQ.

And by extension, the fight for women’s and LGBTQ rights cannot be separated from the fight against discrimination aimed at other marginalized sectors such as PWDs, senior citizens, disenfranchised farmers, the poor, etc.

It is in this light that I would like to thank our president, Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte, for his determination and compassion.

After the controversial bathroom incident involving a transwoman last year, the President has signed Executive Order 100 which seeks to establish a Diversity and Inclusion Program in all national agencies to end all forms of discrimination and abuse on the basis of age, civil and health status, race, religion, physical appearance, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

Although the scope of this order is just the public sector, it enjoins the private sector as well as LGUs to follow suit and develop their own Diversity and Inclusion Programs.

For Women’s Month, I would like to appeal to greater sense of compassion, acceptance, understanding and mother- hood present in all women, so that they can open their hearts to welcome and protect the LGBTQ community and other marginalized sectors in our country. We are also allies.

We are all partners in the fight for equality.

Happy Women’s Month!