Change.org posted an article yesterday informing of SEPTA’s decision to continue their use of gender markers on monthly transpasses for the next three years. Check out the full article for a bit of background on the issue and more information, and be sure to sign the petition.
For those of you who don’t know, SEPTA is the SouthEastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority – ie, the one and only public transit system used in the metro-Philadelphia area. SEPTA has had a policy in place where they place tiny little stickers on your monthly pass – these stickers are either an M or an F, demarcating your gender. SEPTA authorities and other officials are supposed to enforce this compliance – that is, that your sticker does indeed match your gender, although obviously this means it must match your perceived gender. For transgender people, or even other gender variant people, this is evidently quite problematic.
Allegedly this practice is in place to decrease your chances of pass sharing. If you’re good at math, you will quickly calculate that this only decreases your chances of sharing your monthly pass with half of the people you could share it with. But half is less than all, right? Apparently, there is a total of zero studies conducted to show that wasting money on placing and enforcing gender stickers reduces pass sharing and makes economical sense, overriding any of the benefits of outcasting all gender variant people. There is also an active group, RAGE, Riders Against Gender Exclusion, among other groups, who have been in continous talks with SEPTA authorities for years. In sum, SEPTA just doesn’t care that it is actively engaging in discriminatory practices. This is why getting transgender anti-discrimination laws at the Federal level is most important.
This issue really hits home for me. Having lived in Philadelphia for the past 6 years, up until this summer, I can attest that Philly people are the meanest you will encounter. I occasionally shared my girlfriend’s pass for the semester she had one. Although I did not experience any harrasment over me using an ‘F’ sticker while looking like a boy, I was, like any other Philadelphian, most certainly harrassed more than once by the angry bus driver or the belligerent passenger, albeit not for gender issues.
It’s not Ironic
Being transgender is hard enough without having to worry about being kicked off the bus, or worse, being ‘outed’ in front of everybody, just because of one letter on an insignificant, and unnecessary sticker. For SEPTA, there appears to be some good enough reason to discriminate against transgender people, an already struggling population, although nobody has figured out what this reason is.
And no, the irony is never lost that this is called the transpass. But there’s nothing ironic about setting the example to the entire metro-Philadelphia area that transgender people don’t matter, and that it’s completely OK to discriminate against them.