SEPTA’s Gender Discrimination

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.

SEPTA Who?

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.

Sharing

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.

3 responses to “SEPTA’s Gender Discrimination

  1. This is completely irrational and discriminatory from SEPTA.
    Plus does the sticker really help? No
    This is something that really made us angry when we were in Philly and no person should be exposed that way when they are only trying to get from point A to point B

  2. I got that message from Change.org yesterday too. I was so startled to learn that there was a transit pass with a gender marker. I have never heard of anything like that. Like you said, that still leaves open a lot of possibilities for sharing passes, and if they haven’t studied it — I see no reason to use it at all.

    Also, my girlfriend (who is also genderqueer) was thinking of Philly for school for a while, so my first reaction to the notice was slight horror. That could’ve been a problem for us depending on how people read our presentation on any given day. I can’t even imagine how scary and dangerous it would be if you knew your pass could out you on a regular basis.

    I am sorry that you had to deal with harassment on transit for any reason. Public transit is a public service, and if you pay for your pass, the people providing the service shouldn’t hassle you — being rude to you in-person or forcing pass classifications like this. I really hope that public pressure makes this one go away.

  3. Pingback: Neutrois Nonsense: SEPTA’s Gender Discrimination – Practical Androgyny·

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