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The power of pink

The transgender community is outraged after nightclub Valkyrie recently refused entrance to two transgender women, Veejay Floresca and Trixie Maristela, citing a no-crossdressers rule.

 In a second incident, Floresca was at first denied entry by security personnel and only allowed inside after she showed her California state identification card that states her gender as “female.”

Floresca and Maristela subsequently discussed their grievances on social media, touching off a chain of reactions from netizens. The LGBTQ community and their supporters are angry and indignant, whereas others pooh-pooh the incidents as a mere dress-code issue or praise Valkyrie for “upholding decency.”

University of the Philippines organization Babaylan posted a statement on their Facebook page that says, in part: “  Thank you, Valkyrie.  In the midst of all the outrage of the LGBT community, UP Babaylan would like to take a moment and thank Valkyrie for shutting its doors to our dear Babaylan sister, Trixie, and to other transgender women who thought that going to your club was a perfect idea of fun.

“Because now, everyone knows your club sucks.

“But your club is great to have brought the LGBT, especially the trans community, even closer together...Thank you, Valkyrie, for being the role model of systemic discrimination that takes form in seemingly harmless policies like a simple dress code.”

Gender Proud founder Geena Rocero called for a meeting with Valkyrie management to discuss the incidents, saying on Facebook: “You acknowledged that this problematic ‘no crossdresser policy’ being enforced on transwomen/gender non-conforming people as urgent but you don’t act on it…”

On June 22, Valkyrie apologized in a letter sent to online news outlet PEP.ph, saying “the management of Valkyrie Nightclub and The Palace Pool Club wishes to clarify that it does not discriminate against transwomen and transgender individuals,” reiterating that their bouncers were only enforcing “safety policies and guidelines.”

One point of view sees this entire incident as discriminatory against a sizable and visible community of Filipinos, who are stigmatized for their gender and non-normative lifestyle choices.

On the other hand, Valkyrie, and any other private establishment for that matter, has the right to restrict its clientele, which is generally done through the imposition of dress codes (for example: no entry to people wearing sando and slippers) and guidelines on behavior (bouncers may eject drunks and unruly patrons). It’s their place, after all, and they can set their own rules.           

Many are not aware that historically, transwomen had a respected position in Philippine society, serving the community as babaylan (priestesses) alongside cis-gender (straight) women. They were shamans, healers, therapists, culture bearers, and wisdom-keepers, who had access to the spirit world and connected the people to the divine realms.

With the coming of the Spanish colonizers and the religion they brought and imposed, LGBTQ people were marginalized and oppressed, and today that prejudice against them is manifested in many cultural norms and other forms of suppression.

Apart from the arguments related to intolerance and exclusion, what many business people do not realize is the power of the “pink peso” – or the purchasing power of the LGBTQ community.

“Project Pink,” a 2011 study by the Philippine Survey Research Center found that one in 20 Metro Manila residents identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, or about 600,000 people, not including those who do not publicly acknowledge their gender.

Another finding of the study was that many LGBTQ people were high-earners; that impulse buying and brand awareness is also higher in that community; and they have more personal income to spend on non-essential items.

The study also found that 70 percent of transgendered people and 70 percent of gay males exercise a big role in decision-making in their families. (Perhaps this stems from their economic power coming from high earnings and having no children).

In other words, many LGBTQ people are making big money and have extra to spend on luxuries and experiences.

Now, if Valkyrie implements a dress code that has the effect of excluding transgender people, that’s their lookout and they will have to deal with the effects and consequences of such a policy.

Here’s a Filipino saying that’s apt for this situation: Kung ayaw mo, huwag mo. Are you against Valkyrie’s ‘no crossdresser’ policy? Then don’t patronize them. Valkyrie isn’t the only nightclub out there.

 Let them feel the power of the pink peso. Let them also feel the power of the straight peso that supports equal rights, non-restrictive dress codes, and a good time for all.


Facebook: Jenny Ortuoste, Twitter: @jennyortuoste, Instagram: @jensdecember, Blog:  http://jennyo.net

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