Philippines' first transgender politician delivers emotional speech on anti-discrimination bill

Geraldine Roman on the campaign trail in April.
Geraldine Roman on the campaign trail in April.

Image: AFP/Getty Images

The country’s first transgender lawmaker brought the House to a standing ovation on Tuesday, after she delivered an impassioned address urging fellow lawmakers to pass a dormant anti-discrimination bill.

Geraldine Roman of Bataan province spoke at the Philippines House of Representatives in Quezon City. In her speech, she asked for equal treatment for the LGBTQ community in gaining access to basic services and employment, and to put a stop to the harassment many members face at the workplace and school.

The bill prohibiting discrimination based on s.e.xual orientation or gender identity has been refiled repeatedly in Congress, but has remained in limbo for 17 years, according to Rappler.

The Philippines does not have laws criminalising homos.e.xuality, but there are no laws protecting the community in the majority Roman Catholic nation.

Geraldine Roman, attends a congress session in July.

Geraldine Roman, attends a congress session in July.

Roman said during her speech: “My dear brother and sisters in the LGBT community, I want you to know that I am but one voice among many in this august chamber that says it is time: It is the time to pass the Anti-Discrimination Bill on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. And the time is now!”

Her speech starts at about 36 minutes in.

The bill asks those found guilty to face a six-year jail term and fines of up to PHP 500,000 (US$10,450).

Roman recounted how her father, the late former Bataan congressman Antonino Roman, fully accepted her as transgender, despite being the stereotypical “macho politician”.

She said it was his dream for her to take the House podium to champion the rights of her community.

Roman campaigning in her home province of Bataan in April.

Roman campaigning in her home province of Bataan in April.

Image: ted aljibe/AFP/Getty Images

“Daddy, you and I need not beg my colleagues for respect. I am glad and proud that the members of the 17th Congress have not only welcomed me with open arms. They have dealt with me as a full-fledged colleague, as an equal.” Roman said, close to tears.

She noted that there have been 164 cases of hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community since 1995 in the Philippines.

“Hopefully as you have fully accepted me, you would also accept equality among all Filipinos, LGBTQ or not,” she said.

Bloggers and other online personalities quickly reacted with praise.

“Fight for us, Geraldine,” popular style and transgender fashion blogger Mikki Galang, posted on her Facebook account. 

Yedda Romualdez, wife of Leyte congressman Martin Romualdez, said she was awed by Roman’s “beautiful” speech.

On Twitter, Filipino celebrity Bianca Gonzalez also said that Roman’s speech was one “happy item” in the news.

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