Philippines: Why call centers might be the most radical workplaces

You may not realize it, but the person on the other side of your customer service phone call might be transgender. On calls, Filipino workers can safely adopt women’s voices, names, and clothing, all while earning a decent wage. But their success at work doesn’t protect them from the discrimination they face outside of it.

In the Philippines, call centers have become havens for gender-nonconforming people, a place where they can experiment with their gender presentation and identity. Since most of the labor takes place over the phone, employees assigned male at birth may adopt traditionally feminine names, take on a “female voice,” or wear women’s clothing while talking to customers, a freedom that would be impossible in most other industries in the country.

For decades, beauty parlors were a rare refuge where gender-variant Filipinas could openly work, at the expense of low wages. But today “call centers are the new beauty parlor,” said Naomi Fontanos, the head of a major Philippine transgender organization and herself a former call center worker.  Read more via Buzzfeed