Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hong Kong Day 3: It Could Happen To You Redux

On Thursday, 28 January 2010, Santy and I agreed to go out. Half an hour before midnight, I was dressed and ready to see her in her hotel downtown. I myself stayed over with the Winters, in a spare room they keep for guests. On my way out, I saw Sam Winter in the kitchen and he decided to come along with Santy and me. We picked Santy up at her hotel and when we were all together, we decided to go to a place playing live music.

It was a bar called Amazonia in Wan Chai and when we got there, the first thing I noticed was that it was packed with white guys and pinays (short for Filipinas). All the waitresses were Filipina and the guys who brought along dates, brought Filipina women. Even the band was all-Filipino. A waitress led us to a sitting area near the side of the stage where the band was playing and we ordered drinks. While waiting for them to come, we decided to go down to the area in front of the stage to dance.

The band’s lead singer was this cute pinay and when she saw me she gave me a warm smile. After about 3 songs, the band’s repertoire shifted to slow songs which I thought were not very danceable. We decided to go back to our seats and enjoy our drinks. After the set of slow tunes, the band went on intermission and the bar played canned dance music. They played recent hits by the Black Eyed Peas, Shakira, and Lady Gaga and others. Meanwhile, we were all having fun dancing to all the songs.

Beside me was a Filipina with a group of foreign guys. We danced together and she said that all her guy friends who were sitting a few step from us had a crush on me. I said I was very flattered but not interested thank you very much and remarked that she was not bad looking herself. It was then that I kind of figured out that she was a sex worker. When I looked around I saw more of them hanging around in pairs or alone cruising the guys inside the bar. I paid them no mind and kept dancing with the pinay I just met until the song ended. I went to the lady’s room because I felt very hot and needed to pee. When I came back, I asked Santy and Sam if they wanted to have some fresh air outside. We took our new round of drinks with us, made our way outside and stood by the side of the entrance, where other people were also standing around with their drinks. I asked a waitress to take a picture of us (see below).

Outside Bar Amazonia

We were there for about half an hour and at Bar Amazonia for almost 2 hours already. When we heard the band inside play a good dance tune, we decided to go back to the dance floor. Sam went in first while I and Santy followed him behind. Sam was already in and I was about to go in as well when the door man/bouncer, a short, pudgy looking Chinese guy in black shirt and jeans, put himself in front of me, with his arms spread to the sides, barring my entrance. I said, “Excuse me” and he said “No!” while shaking his head side to side. I said, “I’m sorry but what’s the problem? I was just in there an hour ago?” He just looked at me icily and said no again without saying anymore. I was starting to get annoyed. At that point, people inside started to look on.

I saw Sam rushing back outside to us and when he got to the door he started talking to the bouncer. He asked him what the problem was and he said, “I’m sorry sir but no ladyboys allowed here. We are not a gay bar.”

I got very angry at this remark and addressed the door man, “You just fucking insulted me. I am not a ladyboy. How dare you!” Sam told the door man, “These are women!” pointing at Santy and me. “I’m just doing my job,” the bouncer said. He then directed us to the manager, another short and stout Chinese man in a light blue shirt and slacks, who was by then standing at the door. “Talk to the manager if you want,” he said. I went up to the manager and told him that just around an hour or two ago, we were all inside enjoying ourselves dancing to the music. We went out for air and when I tried to go back in, the door man blocked my way. I asked the manager, “What is the problem? What happened between now and then? Have I done something criminal that you do not want to let me in?” The manager just looked at me, with no emotion on his face, and pointed to a sign at the door saying that management reserved the right to refuse entrance to anyone they choose. I said that that was insane because we were just in the bar and we even danced in front of the band. He said sorry but it’s their policy. Santy had my camera then and she started taking pictures of our argument (see picture below). The manager looked at her and said, “No pictures please!” but Santy said, “I don’t care. I will take pictures if I want to!”

Argument outside Bar Amazonia

Sam needed to go back for his credit card inside so he excused himself. The manager followed him in and we were left standing in front of the bouncer who was looking at me with hate in his eyes. I could not stop myself and started to berate him. “You are such hypocrites. Don’t think that I do not know that there are so many prostitutes inside your bar. You allow prostitutes to go in your bar but you will not allow someone like me. I am not a fucking prostitute! Do you hear me?”

The bouncer got enraged, turned red and started to pick things up to throw at me. First he picked up plastic cups in a stack but it flew in the wrong direction. Then he picked up a small bottle of mineral water but missed me again. The bottle cap hit my left hand though but it did not hurt. At that point, some men from inside and outside rushed to stop him. He was screaming “I’m just doing my job all right! I’m just doing my job.”

One of the guys who calmed him down, a Australian lawyer working for the University of Hong Kong came to my side and asked what the matter was. He knew Sam and they started speaking about what just transpired. Sam informed the lawyer that the manager was refusing to let us in because we were transgender. The lawyer said that that was not right especially since he saw me earlier dancing in front of the band. He said, “But I saw you in there earlier and you were having such a good time.” I said yes that is why I was surprised myself that they did not want to let us back in.

We discussed the matter some more but at that point all I wanted was to get out of there so we thanked the lawyer for his kindness and left.


Monica Roberts said...

This trip to Hong Kong is turn into the trip from Hades so far...

PinayTG said...

I know. The only highlight of this trip was the talk at the University of Hong Kong. All the rest of it, I'd rather forget. I feel sad mostly about this trip. There was too much harshness and a girl can only take so much.

Monica Roberts said...

Idon't have to tell you this, but you've probably heard this old saying.

Tough times don't last. Tough people do

Dawn Selya said...

I'm so sorry Pau for all these very unfortunate incidents - from the airport to hanging out in the bar. It goes to show that really people need to be enlightened about who we are as trans people.

I'm proud of what you have accomplished and have been doing for the community. Sadly , there is obviously a lot to be done to get the recognition we deserve especially in that part of the world.

May I ask if you took the opportunity during your talk to inform the students in Hong Kong of how authorities in their country treat transgender, i.e. immigration? It would have been a good starting point because obviously you or any of us can't do it alone by ourselves.

Nonetheless, I am so proud of your work. You make me believe that there's hope for all of us. Atta girl! Take care Pau!

PinayTG said...

@Monica Roberts: Thank you Monica. That makes me feel so much better.

@Dawn: Thank you Dawn for your kind word. I did tell the class about what happened at the airport. My point was, at any second of any given day, they who are non-transgender take who they are, their gender, for granted. In our case though, as transgender people, the world will not let us off easily and take who we are for granted. At any second of any given day, we will be subject to cruelty and intolerance because of it.