Exactly how do gyms in Metro Cebu deal with transgender women and men?
This question arose after part-time model Maki Gingoyon, a transgender woman, had to back off applying as a member in a mall-based fitness gym after being told by the manager that the ladies’ room was off limits.
The distinction arose after Maki showed an ID card where the gender “M” confirmed genitals that are male, although Maki looks and feels completely female.
Whether this is discrimination or simple consideration for the majority of the female clients of Fitness First, who shower and change in the locker room for women, would be an interesting test case for Cebu City’s ordinance.
The city ordinance is reportedly the only one of its kind in the country that prohibits acts of discrimination in access to services and establishments based on a slew of factors like age, gender, health status and ethnicity.
What’s going for Maki, who is an advocate of transgender women’s welfare, is the self restraint shown in raising the complaint.
No histrionics or screaming match with gym attendants in Ayala Center.
The conversation was polite, by his/her own account, albeit “humiliating” for the former Queen of Cebu 2010 titlist, who felt the probing questions about whether a sex change operation was completed were intrusive.
Instead of placards, there was a formal letter of complaint to the management seeking clarification of its policy towards use of its facilities by transgenders.
“I still don’t have a plan to file a case against Fitness First” Maki told CDN. “I’m still waiting for the response of the management and I’ll ask advice from the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.”
In taking the high road of challenging the gym’s policy, yet following protocol and taking a firm position as a disappointed customer, Maki can help frame the debate of what exactly are the rights of a transgender woman in a conservative yet cosmopolitan city like Cebu.
Told that the city ordinance still has no implementing guidelines, in effect, no teeth, Maki would have to weigh carefully what battle to take on.
As the manager of an online dating site for “ladyboys”, the Internet-savvy Maki has taken the campaign to Facebook, where a direct appeal to the wider, more liberal universe of Netizens is drawing its own traction.
Suing a fitness gym is a narrow goal. Changing the public’s mindset about the LGBT community would take a bigger effort.
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