Trans woman Gretchen Diez: I didn't think I'd be treated like a criminal

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – She thought she was safe.

Gretchen Custodio Diez, the transgender woman who was arrested Tuesday, August 13, recounted how she was prevented from using a women's restroom in a Cubao mall in Quezon City. 

She said she fell in line for the women's restroom at around 1:30 pm inside Farmer's Market in Cubao when a janitress told her to step out and go to the men's restroom instead. She fought back at first, and then restrained herself. As she started walking away, she realized she had to do something.

She decided to ask the janitress again why she was not allowed in the women's restroom. She took a video of the encounter and this enraged the janitress, who "dragged" her to the security room to have her arrested. She was detained by cops, cuffed and shamed.

Diez was brought from the mall to the Cubao police station. Police officers then brought her to the Quirino Memorial Medical Center for her medical test, after which she was transferred to the Quezon City Police District's Anti-Cybercrime Division in Camp Karingal.

She was eventually brought back to the Cubao station. Cops could not immediately decide what case to file against her.

"Sa akin lang po, 'yung para kang shoplifter na kinakaladkad sa loob ng mall, na nakatingin sa'yo 'yung mga tao na hawak ka…. Hindi ko po maintindihan sa isang supposedly gender-fair na city, may ganoon na tao na tatrato sa akin na para akong may ginawang krimen," a teary Diez told reporters on Tuesday.

(For me, it was like I was a shoplifter being dragged inside the mall, with people looking at me as I was being held.... I could not understand how, in a supposedly gender-fair city, there's a person who would treat me like I committed crime.)

Diez said she regularly visited Cubao because she knew that discrimination is banned in Quezon City.

Her arrest has triggered public outcry and calls for change from politicians. Bataan 1st District Representative Geraldine Roman, the first transgender member of the House of Representatives, visited Diez in the police precinct on Tuesday. 

"I think it's about time that ordinances that we want to implement are not just on paper or just on social media, but felt," Diez said.

Hours after her arrest, at around 11:30 pm, Diez walked free after the janitress decided to drop her complaint. The janitress, in a written letter to Diez, apologized and said she was "willing to learn LGBT rights."

Still, Diez vowed to "pursue legal action" to make sure that what happened to her does not happen again to other trans women, even in other parts of the country. – Rappler.com

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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