With waist-length hair, smooth skin, and fine features, Maki Gingoyon can turn heads.
The former Queen of Cebu 2010 titlist was almost accepted as a member of of a private gym in a Cebu city mall last Monday, but didn’t enroll when the manager said the ladies’ locker was off limits.
The walk-in client said it was a “humiliating” experience to have to explain an ID card which stated “male” as gender.
As an advocate of transgender women, the beauty queen complained, first online and then in a letter to Fitness First in Ayala Center.
The Facebook post was quickly shared, with 600 “likes” last night, and cast new attention on Cebu City’s anti-discrimination ordinance and the mixed reception of establishments to homosexual clients.
“A fitness center inside the Ayala mall did not allow me to sign up for membership because I am a transgender woman,” wrote Gingoyon in the post.
“Worst, I am not allowed because I have not undergone sexual reassignment surgery. Shame.”
Fitness First Ayala manager Tender Salazar, who received Maki’s hand-carried letter, said they have referred the case to their main office in Manila to be handled by their legal counsel.
“As of now, we can’t issue any further statement on this case. We saw the post and took action, which is forwarding this to our main office,” said Salazar.
“Actually we are happy with this development because this can help us. We are in the process of coming up with new guidelines. We also have issues about kids inside the club.”
She promised to give feedback as soon as possible.
Gingoyon, who works out in the Cebu City Sports Center, had gone to the gym on Monday to inquire about its services and signing up.
“Maki” works as a marketing manager of a social networking site www.myladyboydate.com set up with a boyfriend.
At first, gym attendants were very friendly and gave Maki a tour of the facility, including the ladies room. The staff thought they were dealing with a biological woman.
Salazar, the manager, said the gym used to allow transgender women clients to use the ladies locker room to shower and change, until last year when some customers started to complain.
Since then, the staff doesn’t show the ladies’ room to applicants who are transgender women to avoid setting false expectations.
Maki’s beauty queen figure, soft voice, and understated manner of dressing convince many on at first sight that the Cebuano is a feminine beauty.
When attendants asked to see an ID card and noticed the “M” for male gender, they explained their policy.
“They asked me if I have undergone an operation (to change my genitals) and show a certification that I really had an operation. That time I felt offended because I feel it is a very personal question. I asked myself was it really necessary? I feel humiliated. I didn’t know what to do and whether I should just walk out,” Maki told Cebu Daily News.
Since 2010 after going a transition period of growing long hair and undergoing hormone replacement therapy, Maki has been freely using the female’s restroom in public places in malls, restaurants and bars.
“My preference is female so why would I go to the male’s restroom?” Maki said.
Maki clarified that the gym attendants were polite. It was the gym rules that were unfair .
“It’s a gray area for me. As a transgender advocate my job is to inform the community that there are people like us. Why is it that there is still discrimination? There are transgender women who undergo operation and there are some who won’t. In my case I am really not comfortable and not ready for that.” Maki said.
“Even if I would undergo a change in genitalia it would not matter here in the Philippines because we don’t have a law that would support a change (of gender) from male to female.”
Maki has joined several trans-woman beauty pageants. The latest was ‘Super Sireyna’ a segment of a noontime show “Eat Bulaga” where Maki won Queen of the Sky last year.
Maki works closely with the Coalition and Liberation of Reassigned Sex (COLORS).
Wearing jeans and high heel boots, the former pageant titlist submitted a letter of complaint to Fitness First. The gym manager thanked Maki for filing it at a time when the company is reviewing its rules.
“The gym is open for everyone but most clients who are mostly 30 years old and above are not comfortable with having them inside the ladies room,” said the manager.
Cebu City Councillor Alvin Dizon, author of the city’s Anti-Discrimination Ordinance, said the complaint would be a “good test case”.
The city ordinance was passed in October 2012 seeks but still lacks implementing guidelines.
It seeks to help build a culture of respect for diversity and tolerance, and values human rights and dignity.
Cases of discrimination of members of the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (lgbt) community are supposed to be filed with the city’s Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS).
One of the prohibited acts is to deny a person’s access to and use of private and public establishments, facilities, utilities, transportation or services, including housing that are open to the general public on the basis of disability, age, health status, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity despite the person’s capacity to comply with requirements for access of the establishments.
Violators will be fined P1,000 or face imprisonment of one to 30 days on first offense; P3,000 or imprisonment on second offense; and P5,000 or imprisonment on third offense.
“I’ve received complaints before and after the ordinance was passed but none of them made a final complaint. They just settled with the establishment,”he said.
He said that even without implementing rules, the ordinance itself can be a basis to file a complaint./ With Reporter Jose Santino Bunachita