Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown introduced a resolution calling on SEPTA to end the practice of placing gender identification stickers on transpasses. The longstanding policy was implemented to reduce sharing of SEPTA transpasses, however, many believe it leads to discrimination against Philadelphia’s transgender community.
Since last year Councilwoman Reynolds Brown has been working with the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club on the issue on the basis that gender IDs discriminate against transgender people throughout the region.
“People listen to what we say, but ultimately, they watch what we do. I commend the membership of Liberty City for paying attention and doing the necessary follow through,” says Councilwoman Reynolds Brown. “At the end of the process and debate, we want Philadelphians of all cultures, walks of life and backgrounds to get through each day without feeling discriminated against – without someone dimming their shine. We hope this resolution will move the needle further toward our goal.”
SEPTA issues transpasses based on the gender stated on one’s state-issued identification, which for transgender customers is different than that of their gender identity and appearance. SEPTA requires employees that accept fares on trains and buses to verify that the gender sticker matches the customer, which can result in refusal of service, an embarrassing line of questioning and/or subsequent harassment from riders that witness the verification process.
Philadelphia’s RAGE (Riders Against Gender Exclusion) have also been trying to persuade SEPTA to do away with the gender IDs. “The main issue that we’re focusing on with SEPTA is getting them to discontinue the use of M/F gender stickers on weekly and monthly Trans and Trail passes because of the instances of harassment this has caused for members of the transgender community and other riders who might be somewhat androgynous in their gender presentation,” explains Nico Amador, one of the founders of RAGE. “The elderly and people with disabilities also receive special passes that are color-coded by gender and this has also been a problem for some people. SEPTA has said they will remove the stickers once a new fare card system is implemented, but that won’t be finished for three years. We believe that the issue is significant enough that SEPTA should remove the stickers as soon as possible.”
Max Ray, also of RAGE, had this to say: “RAGE is excited to have the unanimous support of City Council in calling on SEPTA to remove the gender stickers from transpasses. Like City Council, we believe that all Philadelphians have the right to ride in safety without being questioned, harassed, or denied equal access when their appearance doesn’t match someone else’s idea of what a male or a female should look like. Transgender Philadelphians don’t often get to share stories of the dangers we face, and so we were looking forward to the opportunity to go on record; but we were pleased City Council knew what to do anyway. We’re looking forward to continue to work with City Council on this issue during the budget hearings, and to continue to bring our stories directly to SEPTA as we educate SEPTA employees about how to treat riders of all genders with respect for their safety and dignity.”
This latest resolution will be discussed at the March 29th meeting (10 a.m.) in the City Council Chamber.