Gender Identity and Discrimination in the Workplace


Alvin Dakis is a nurse by profession, a social scientist, and a certified gender specialist and practitioner. He is an independent consultant of various government institutions on Gender and Development, health, and governance.

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Can a bunny and a bee live in harmony?

Well, in the case of Bunny Cadag, the bee stung a bit harsher. Bunny wasn’t jolly and cried foul, thus a formal complaint was filed against one of the fast food giant’s employee.

But what was the fuss about? Bunny claimed to have experienced a form of discrimination on the basis of gender identity at the workplace.

Bunny, who identifies as a gender queer (that is, someone who does not subscribe to the conventional gender distinctions but may identify with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders), filed a formal complaint to Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC) against Mr. Louie Angsico of Human Capitol Development.

What transpired?

Bunny, in a personal Facebook post, detailed what happened. Through Human Capitol Development, Bunny was invited along with two peers to apply as transcribers for an evaluation interview of Jollibee Foods Corporation. They would have to conduct and transcribe an Evaluation Interview for Jollibee’s employees for three days. The first day went on smoothly.

However, Mr. Angsico allegedly told Bunny that Jollibee (JFC) is somewhat still not ready to accommodate the “LGBT culture” and “transgender people inside one of their rooms working” due to their inclination to the Catholic teachings and beliefs. Nonetheless, they are still willing to let Bunny do transcribing as long as it is through recorded work.

Was that a form of discrimination on the basis of one’s gender identity?

The answer to that is a resounding YES!

But what is “discrimination” in the first place? It is the unjust and prejudicial treatment of people on the basis of another’s bias, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, intolerance, or ignorance.

The fact that Bunny was called out by Mr. Angsico that “transgender people” are somewhat not accommodated or that Jollibee is still not ready to accommodate the so-called “LGBT culture” due to their inclination to certain religious beliefs and that they would ask Bunny to still continue working but through recording showed some grave discrimination to a person who is perceived to be “not normal”. Discrimination against one’s gender identity was clearly exhibited when they refused Bunny to report physically and do the job.

But Jollibee through Human Capitol Development is like any private company who has rules that they can impose on their workforce is it not? Definitely. But Bunny was asked not to report physically not because Bunny was incompetent on the job but because Bunny is a gender queer and that Bunny does not conform to any socially constructed gender norms of the institution.

Jollibee official statement of apology

Whether Bunny accepts the official statement of apology from Jollibee, one thing is clear. They are just ‘sorry’ but they never stated any measure to rectify nor investigate the issue. With Jollibee’s justification of this being as an isolated incident would mean that Jollibee has not investigated on the issue. How would they know exactly that this was indeed an isolated case? Because it became viral in social media? But do they really know the extent of any related cases within their organization? The answer was clear in their statement – that their “non-discrimination”, “inclusion”, and “diversity” policies did not come as clear as it should be to their workforce.

A formal issuance of public apology would seem to be a knee-jerk reaction and damage control measure but it did not explain what Jollibee intends to do to the erring employee. Jollibee must conduct an investigation as to why Mr. Angsico never responded to Bunny’s complaint letter and would that inaction and his prior treatment to Bunny lead to a certain disciplinary measure (say, being suspended or fired from his job?). And how about the inaction of “Cherry” who seemed to be supportive and in agreement with Bunny but in the end has not provided any concrete steps nor have provided feedback to Bunny’s complaints? ‘Paasa’ much eh?

Gender Identity and Discrimination in the Workplace 2

Jollibee must also review their policies and retrain their entire staff and workforce seriously re-enforcing their policies on non-discrimination, inclusion, and diversity. A nationwide Gender Sensitivity training must be conducted to avoid any similar occurrence in the future. But you know, indulge me with this side comment, as a regular customer of Jollibee myself and having to dine in many Jollibee fast food restaurants, I have not seen any transgender nor a differently-abled person as their staff. Have you?

Not a personal issue, but a policy issue

Despite Jollibee claiming that this is an isolated incidence, this is not. This solidifies the stigmatization and discrimination of LGBT+s (and those who are perceived to be ‘different’) on the basis of their age, skin color, gender identity, sexual orientation, among many others.

This incident, along as with dozens more of the same weight and thousands more that remained to be unrecorded or under-reported, would signal our lawmakers the importance of passing the Anti-Discrimination Law. With this national legislation in place, we would not be able to hear another similar Bunny experience where the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) would take more than two weeks to assist a person on his or her case because apparently, no investigator seemed to know how to efficiently handle such a case.

Passing the Anti-Discrimination Law is one, but definitely our society is far from achieving a just and equal society for all peoples regardless of age, belief, creed, skin color, and gender identity & sexual orientation. If you want to get more depressed with how Filipinos degrade other LGBT+s, read the comment section of Bunny’s post and even in some of the news articles written about this case.

How to address gender queers

There is no hard rule really. But just this – would you want to be treated unjustly because some people do not understand who you are? If not, then you are a step closer to treating LGBT+s with dignity and respect.

But just to help you a bit, you refer gender queers by the names and pronouns they prefer to use. Most are cool with people calling them by their nicknames. If you aren’t really sure what pronoun to use in reference to them, you may want to observe what pronouns they use in reference to themselves. If you are caught in the middle of a conversation and would not know what pronouns to use, you may simply ask their preferred pronouns. Most of the gender queer people I know will not take offense in that.

If you mistakenly used a wrong pronoun or gendered term, correct yourself and move on. But please be mindful of using gendered words and pronouns such as “girl”, “boy”, “man”, “woman”, “he”, or “she”. You may opt to use gender-neutral terms such as “person” or “human” (instead of girl or guy, man or woman), “Mx.” (instead or Mr. or Ms.), and “partner/lover” (instead of boy/girl friend).

And finally, know for a fact that you enjoy certain privileges that they don’t. You do not get to be bullied, stigmatized, and discriminated because of your gender identity and sexual orientation but they do – and some, a lot. Know that this privilege you somewhat enjoy is something we should aim to work so every one, including them, would enjoy living their lives free from fear of simply living as a human being.

So can a bunny and a bee live in harmony? The answer is up to you.

March 2018 Health and Lifestyle

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