My friend Sharlyne wrote a very interesting article today on public toilets for LGBTs. In a GMA report, the Alyansa ng Media at Showbiz, Inc., led by Leo Martinez, proposes “gay toilets;” that “gay male” and “gay female” toilets may be built in government offices and commercial establishments.
I’m sure that Mr. Martinez and his group are genuinely concerned for the welfare and the security of gay people, and I wouldn’t begrudge any gay, lesbian, or transgendered person the right to say that a separate toilet for their gender is a genuine solution to the problem, if he or she believes so. Yet the struggle for LGBT rights isn’t about excluding and separating one’s self from society. It’s about inclusion and acceptance: if the whole struggle has to boil down to a matter of toilets, it’s the gay male or the lesbian or the bisexual or the transgendered to enter a comfort room of his or her own choice, without fear of repercussions or discrimination. It is to be included and accepted by society, without being judged by toilet habits.
We cannot build walls around those who differ from the way things are, the way we do things, and what we believe in. Difference does not endanger society, and therefore we should not imprison differences or keep them in the periphery. Discrimination exists precisely because of those walls, social as they may be. Discrimination, in many ways, has been highlighted and enforced because of structures and walls. Walls have divided cities and countries on differences like race, class, heritage, skin color, and political beliefs.
Policies of discrimination led to low points of human history, like the Holocaust, apartheid, and the continued repression of LGBT people to be judged not on their merits and abilities and contribution to society, but trivializing their problems as an issue of what toilet to use. In a word, marginalization.
To build a wall, a fence, or a toilet cubicle around a gay person is to merely tolerate that difference, instead of celebrating and accepting it as part of society. It’s a matter of recognition and respect: that we recognize their sexuality and gender, and respect it as something we should include and honor.
We celebrate, acknowledge, and honor sexuality as something that makes us human, but it is not the sole basis of our humanity. The LGBT struggle is one for fairness and justice, recognition and respect. The same economic, educational, civil, and political liberties and benefits a heterosexual man or woman gets from society should be accorded to LGBTs, and they should be judged and respected as fairly and equally because of their abilities and personhood, not solely on their sexual orientation.
Gay toilets, for me, underscore our desire to separate and to secede from each other in society, and not continue the long process of harmony and inclusion. If anything, we should criminalize discrimination, make queer studies an integral part or at the very least an elective of higher education. We should continue and persist in advocacy campaigns that seek to level and provide LGBTs with the opportunities to succeed, like we do everyone else who differ from us.
We should include the LGBT community within our walls while respecting their differences. Not build walls around them precisely because of their differences.