I don't know what's with establishments that keep enforcing asinine dress codes but in the Philippines there are a lot of them. The dress code is almost always lopsided, meaning it is not enforced equally on all and always singles out a certain group of people. That is obviously discrimination but because there is no law that prohibits such prejudicial business practices in this country, many establishments get away with it by invoking the standard excuse that the business has the right to refuse entry to those it deems unfit to enter its premises.
Now I can understand that from a security point of view. But in reality these dress code policies are usually based on preconceived notions about what it means to be a man or woman and so tend to be oppressive to those whose gender identity or expression does not conform with norms. Should businesses be allowed to police people's expression of their sexual and gender identities? I do not think so. Another establishment in Manila seems hell bent to do so: Manor Superclub (see logo above). Manor is located in the Eastwood City complex in Libis, Quezon City and is supposed to be the next happening place in the Metro for those who love going clubbing.
Around a week or so ago, a transwoman, Rio, went there with her boyfriend and almost did not get in. She was only able to after summoning the manager who, upon seeing her and her bf, then apologized and allowed them to go in. Rio immediately informed us of what happened and so we sent the establishment a letter asking for a dialogue. Below is the letter and the documentation of the humiliating experience that Rio had to suffer through.
3 November 2009
RE: Discriminatory dress code policy
It has recently come to our attention that one of our members in the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), Ms Rio Moreno, was almost barred from entering Manor Superclub on the morning of 24 October 2009, Saturday. Based on her account of what happened (see attachment), it was because the bouncer/guard on duty at the gate was enforcing on her your establishment’s dress code for MEN.
Firstly, Ms Moreno is a person of transsexual experience. That means her gender identity is opposite to the one designated to her at birth. Even if she was assigned male, she developed a female gender identity growing up. The dress code that should have been applied to her then should have been the WOMEN’S. In that case, we are confident that Ms Moreno was not violating your policy. We understand that the bouncer/guard on duty was imposing the dress code based on HIS understanding of Ms Moreno’s gender.
Let us clarify this for you. According to the Yogyakarta Principles, the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, gender identity is “understood to refer to each person’s deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech and mannerisms.” That means Ms Moreno’s gender is what she feels and thinks it is and not what your bouncer/guard thinks or feels it is. Moreover, Ms Moreno’s gender identity has NOTHING to do with her sex assignment at birth or the sex in her birth certificate, her genitals, or her legal name. They DO NOT determine her gender identity. The Yogyakarta Principles are recognized by the UN and human rights commissions around the world including that of the Philippines .
Additionally, we know for a fact that many transsexual women, including some of our own STRAP members, have been able to enter Manor Superclub and enjoy what it has to offer without hassle in the past. This means that your dress code is not being enforced consistently. Ms Moreno was also surprised when she finally entered Manor and she saw many women dressed in men’s clothing inside your club. If you allow women in male apparel to enter Manor, then you should do the same for men in female attire. Obviously no harm is done when women cross dress and exercise their freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and is protected by the 1987 Philippine Constitution. It applies to all people regardless of sex or gender. Because your dress code is not equally applied to both genders, it is clearly discriminatory.
We are surprised that an establishment like yours is enforcing such a policy especially since you are located in Eastwood City , the first ever accredited Tourism Entertainment Complex of the Department of Tourism (DOT). Moreover, you are located in Quezon City , which prides itself on being the only city in the Philippines with a local anti-discrimination ordinance. We do not think that the DOT or the city government particularly its Gender and Development (GAD) Council will tolerate any form of discrimination in establishments under their jurisdiction.
Eastwood is a cosmopolitan place. As your advertisement points out, being in Eastwood is all about living the good life. If that were the case, then this should be reflected in the business practices of all Eastwood establishments, vendors and tenants. Discriminating against a certain population and being discriminated upon has no place in a life well-lived. What is more, such gender-biased dress code restrictions will never be found in the best dance clubs of the world from North America to Europe to Asia . We believe that Manor will be better off if it adopts instead a policy that celebrates diversity and individuality, a major characteristic of your target market.
Do dialogue with us. We believe that we will be able to learn from each other given the chance.
October 24, 1:00AM. I arrived at Manor Superclub Eastwood, with Philip. The bouncer/guard asked for our IDs. Philip showed his and I showed my work ID. It has my preferred name Rio Moreno and my legal name. The guard then pointed his hand and showed me a poster of their dress code, which lists the prohibited clothing for men and women. Under MEN, the list includes women's clothing.
I asked the guard, “What do you mean?” He just did not know what to answer and pointed to the poster again. Philip asked the guard, "Why aren’t you letting her in?" The guard said "Sir, dress code sir."
We asked for the manager. The manager named Will came down. As soon as he saw us, he apologized and told us that we could come in. His exact words were "Sorry po, you can come in." He was talking to me and Philip.
Philip asked, “Why aren't they letting her in?” He just said sorry and said we could come in. He also said that the bouncer was just doing his job.
I asked for their names again. The manager’s name is Will while the bouncer’s name is Mar. We went in and paid the entrance fee.
October 24, 4PM. I called their office number and Jack's Loft employees answer the phone saying that Manor's phone is being used by Jack's loft during the day.
I called again around 9PM. Jack’s Loft picked up again and asked me to call again so the Manor people will pick up. I called again and again till 12 in the morning. I kept getting the fax tone.
I was trying to call them to get their complete names so I could document everything completely.