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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

PA Transit Company SEPTA Silences Debate on Gender Identity Discrimination

By Tom Basgil Jr. -

Want to ride the bus in Philadelphia without coming out to your fellow commuters? Good luck with that.
In January, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) greeted the New Year with a special resolution. The company will continue its discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming passengers for up to three more years by refusing to remove gender stickers from its monthly passes. Please kindly bear with the humiliation, expense and possible threat to your person while SEPTA makes its upgrades.
All of SEPTA’s monthly passes, including, ironically, the “transpass,” must have an “M” or an “F” sticker denoting the bearer’s gender identity. Somehow, the sticker policy is supposed to keep people from sharing passes. SEPTA hasn’t done a study to see if the system reduces pass sharing, but I only have male friends and family so the policy really works well for me.
At the beginning of this year, SEPTA stopped all discussion regarding change to its discriminatory gender sticker policy at the board level. Philadelphia now has the dubious honor of being the only major metropolitan area in the U.S. that forces monthly pass holders to pass a gender test before entering the bus, trolley or train. Anyone who doesn’t present their gender according to a driver’s worldview cannot use their monthly pass. They can even have their expensive pass confiscated.
Just FYI: Passes can cost as much as $191 per month.
Why has SEPTA stopped internal debate on the issue? Because the company says its new fare system will be in place in the next three years. Wait, a second. In 2009, SEPTA promised to have a new, non-gendered system in place within one year, and two years later the transit company is telling riders to wait three more years? Well, I’m sure we can all trust SEPTA’s projection this time around.
SEPTA has really shown its true colors and they certainly don’t make a rainbow. Cash is way more important than the safety and security of passengers, although the company still has no idea whether the sticker policy actually saves money. I’ll tell you one thing, though: Every time a transgender or gender non-conforming person isn’t able to use their pass or needs to replace a confiscated one, SEPTA makes a few more bucks. We all know that hording a few more dollars is more important than reducing discrimination. Right?
Let SETPA know that now is the time to get rid of their discriminatory practice of placing gender stickers on transit passes.


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