When an incident involving a transgender woman and a janitress went viral on social media a little over two months ago, a nationwide debate began on the controversial SOGIE bill.
The incident blew up in such a way that it is now the first thing that comes to mind anytime the mnemonic is uttered. The SOGIE bill rode on the wave of shares and varied comments that flooded social platforms, which eventually reached nationwide broadcasting.
When the trending posts about the incident eventually ebbed, the discussions about the bill also dissipated along with it, and we were stuck with the notion that the unfortunate occurrence between the transgender woman and the janitress is purely why we need the bill to be passed into law today.
In addition, as much as legislators try to debunk and clarify misconceptions about the bill, it seems that even their attempt to correctly frame the people’s perception of it is in need of tweaking.
Take Senator Risa Hontiveros’ tweet of an infographic where she lays out everything the bill is and is not for example.
Every time equal rights is championed, be it for IPs, women or PWDs, oppositors are quick to take out the “special rights” card. This is dangerous.
Hindi magkakalaban ang mga karapatan ng mga marhinalisadong sektor. The advancement of one is the advancement of all. pic.twitter.com/BJlzzRtsMt
— risa hontiveros (@risahontiveros) August 28, 2019
While the senator’s message in the infographic is straightforward in its true message, instead of making it seem that the LGBTQ+ are the main beneficiaries of the bill, she could have pointed out that catering to the marginalized community is only one of the many provisions of the SOGIE bill.
This is because if we were to dissect the SOGIE Bill, its heart, core, and very essence is human rights — not just giving LGBTQ+ members the right to everything straight people enjoy.
In essence, SOGIE stands for “Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Expression” and it is something each of us possesses regardless of our personal biases or religious disposition.
Sexual orientation pertains to whom you are romantically or sexually attracted to. Gender identity is what you identify yourself to be despite your sexual orientation. Gender expression is what shows your gender identity and is done by dressing, talking, acting, or even moving in a way that is unique to you.
However, it is important to understand that, despite it being the title, SOGIE is only a description of the basis on which the bill’s provisions will be enacted — which means it is not about who the bill is truly for. FYI, the bill seeks to cater to every Filipino.
There are currently four versions of the SOGIE or equality bill. One, by Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Sen. Leila De Lima, one by Sen. Grace Poe, one by Sen. Imee Marcos, and one by Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan. Upon looking at each version available on the Senate of the Philippines’ website, it appears that Grace Poe’s is the most “inclusive.”
Senator Poe’s version of the SOGIE or equality bill also includes ethnicity, race, religion or belief, civil status, disability, HIV status, and other statuses as grounds for discrimination.
In the event that Poe’s version of the bill gets passed we could be looking at these possibilities: discrimination of cisgender women (meaning, born and identifying as female) by deprivation of the right to be hired for a job due to one’s SOGIE will be considered an offense that the bill will protect women from, if it had already been passed into law.
It doesn’t stop there. Cisgender men will also benefit from the SOGIE or equality bill as it could nullify gender roles in certain legal circumstances.
This means in the event where a father asks for financial support from the mother, the father’s request may be granted based on the provisions of the bill.
These are only some of the things that the SOGIE or equality bill could give way to once it is law.
So, while we are entitled to our opinions, it’s important to understand what makes the SOGIE or equality bill an important legislature, and ultimately strip it of all the controversies attached to it. And we can only do that as we continue to discuss what the bill is really about
The SOGIE bill is first and foremost an equality bill that seeks to protect every Filipino — yes, including men and women — primarily based on gender.
It is about being inclusive and not letting any kind of hostility or unequal treatment happen to anyone so that all men, women, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders alike can uphold their dignity as part of the society.
The bill was first filed in 2000 under the 11th congress by the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and then Akbayan Representative Loretta Rosales. This makes it one of the longest drawn-out bills in Philippine history, with its passage into law pending for nearly two decades.
If we are ever going to get the SOGIE bill passed, we need to get our facts straight. We need to bring in and consider other versions of the bill so we can see the true purpose of it and talk about it, not just based on our own understanding, but based on each actual point written in the proposals.
This is what could finally give the topic and passage of the bill the momentum it needs without riding on and being dependent on another controversial incident.
Stripped of all controversies, how do you understand the SOGIE or equality bill? Let us know in the comments, share this with your friends and keep the discussion going!