Samal Island resort draws flak for discriminating against ‘trans’ woman

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 May) – A beach resort in the Island Garden City of Samal (IGACOS) in Davao del Norte drew flak on social media for making “homophobic” remarks that it would no longer accommodate transgender guests.

The Isla Reta Beach Resort in Samal. Photo from the resort’s Facebook page

In a statement on Wednesday, the management of Isla Reta Beach Resort said that the members of the third sex are no longer welcome to visit the white sand beach resort because it lacks facilities to cater to them.

“We inform to the public we cannot accommodate transgender because we have no facility for them to avoid issues of discrimination,” the statement read.

This came after Shannon R. Gonzaga, a transgender, complained of being subject to discrimination and ridicule by the management and staff of the resort that refused her to use the shower area for female guests, asking her to show a footage of her private parts as proof that she had gender reassignment during their family’s visit last May 8.

Gonzaga, in her post on social media, said that a staff of the Isla Reta Beach Resort prevented her from using the women’s shower just because she was “gay.”

The resort is located in Barangay Santa Cruz, Talikud Island. IGACOS is a popular tourist destination in the Davao Region for its white sand beach resorts and dive spots.

Gonzaga said she explained to the worker that she was not “gay” but a “transgender” who has been taking hormones since the age of 18, giving her an appearance of a female, but to no avail.

“Around 6 p.m. I wanted to wash off, so I went to the female’s bath because that’s where I was comfortable, which I thought was okay, because my figure was already female, and that’s allowed in other establishments,” Gonzaga said.

The resort staff was relentless and insisted that she use the shower area for male guests.

She said she was apprehensive about using the men’s shower area because it was already packed with “topless” male guests when she came to check it.

“I did not argue, so I quickly proceeded to the men’s room to see if there were no people inside. But there were already many topless male guests who were taking a shower. So, I could not bear to wash off there as I did not want to get intimidated nor make them feel uncomfortable because, sis, I have a cleavage,” Gonzaga said.

Gonzaga said she walked out, changed clothes at their tent, and proceeded to the management supposedly to complain about the resort staff who embarrassed her.

“Sir, I was embarrassed by your staff. I just asked for simple consideration because I wanted to wash off but your staff had so many rants as if she knew me more than I know myself,” she recalled telling the management.

But instead of being attended to, she said she was subjected to another “homophobic” remark as the management insisted on its “policy” that gays are not allowed to use the female’s shower area.

In a statement, the LGBT Davao City Coalition condemned the discrimination against members of the third sex.

The coalition said that no less than the 1987 Philippine Constitution acknowledged each individual’s right to be free from discrimination and right to freedom of expression.

“However, despite the existence of such constitutional proviso, stigma, bigotry, and discrimination still pervade especially against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (+),” it added.

The group also urged the IGACOS government to pass an ordinance that will protect the rights of everyone regardless of their “sexual orientation, gender identity and expression” (SOGIE) to “address disparity in treatment that stems from gender biases and double standards.”

“This will also help in eliminating discrimination against those who will not fit in the socially constructed norms of what is a man and a woman,” it said.

The group added that they “uphold the right of everyone to be treated well with dignity and respect as we consistently stand for safe spaces for all LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender).”

The resort management, in a separate statement, clarified that it did not intend to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community, and even denied disrespecting Gonzaga when the staff prevented her from using the women’s shower room.

It maintained that it is not “homophobic or transphobic” and that all the members of the LGBTQ+ are welcome to its resort but it hopes that its policy on the use of shower rooms and comfort rooms will be respected as it only tries to consider and protect other guests, particularly the women’s rights and privacy.

The resort explained that management previously received complaints from female guests every time a transgender woman would come to use the shower in a common room for women.

“To give the public a background, women guests have been complaining to the management that they do not feel safe and/or are uncomfortable with transgender and even vulnerable using the shower room with them,” it said.

It said guests whose room accommodations do not have comfort rooms were provided with separate male and female comfort and shower rooms, equipped with “several shower heads and spaces.”

The common shower rooms are open and don’t have separate cubicles, management said.

“Once inside, everyone can see everybody using it.  Thus, women are complaining if there are transgenders using it with them. Since then, it has become the management’s policy not to allow transgenders to use the female shower room,” it explained.

It added that it decided not to accommodate transgender women in the meantime since the resort has no facility yet to cater to their demand for a separate shower room, and to avoid being accused of discrimination.

The management said it has no intention to discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community because it even has workers who are members of the community.

“The FB post is only intended for the trans who wishes to have separate facility or who will demand to use the female shower rooms,” it said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)