PHILADELPHIA – Riders Against Gender Exclusion (RAGE) is pleased to announce that, after a lengthy grassroots campaign by transgender and gender non-conforming Philadelphians and our allies, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) plans to remove the gender stickers from all monthly transit passes by 2015. A fare policy proposal will be submitted to SEPTA’s board of directors that includes this change beginning in the second half of 2013.
RAGE began organizing to remove the stickers in 2009. After collecting thousands of signatures on a petition, RAGE members met with SEPTA general manager Joe Casey. At that meeting, Mr. Casey agreed to remove the gender stickers when the new fare system was implemented. However, the project has met with delays, and though the new fare collection methods are planned to begin in 2014, the difficulties facing the transgender community have continued.
RAGE continued to press SEPTA, by holding a drag show in a SEPTA station, collecting stories of discrimination, and disrupting a SEPTA public hearing in order to read their Rider’s Bill of Rights and ask SEPTA officials to sign on to the document.
“Because of our collective efforts, SEPTA has agreed to overturn this discriminatory policy. This decision by SEPTA is so important to transgender riders who daily faced discrimination and risked their own safety just to ride the bus to where they need to go,” said Max Ray, a RAGE founding member.
SEPTA has required all TransPasses to have a male or female gender sticker on them since the 1980’s, as an attempt to prevent heterosexual spouses from sharing passes with one another. Unfortunately, this system has long made riding public transit difficult for transgender and gender non-conforming riders in the Philadelphia area.
Riders whose gender expression does not match the sticker on their pass – for instance, transsexual men and women who are not living in one gender full-time, and genderqueer people who do not present themselves as distinctly male or female – have been harassed by drivers, outed as transgender to other riders putting their personal safety at risk, and have even had legitimate passes confiscated.
As a result of discussions with RAGE and significant activism from the local transgender community, in addition to letters and e-mails from transgender people and allies around the world, Mr. Casey has at last agreed to submit a proposal to the board of directors asking for the gender stickers to be removed from all passes in late 2013, the soonest date the policy can be changed.
“We thank SEPTA for doing the right thing,” continued Max Ray. “New fare system delays may be unavoidable, but SEPTA realized that human rights can’t wait. I’m proud of the tremendous amount of work that the transgender community has put into this project and all we’ve accomplished during this campaign.”
RAGE has worked with supportive members of the Philadelphia City Council to marshal support from the city for ending the gender sticker policy. As a result of RAGE members’ lobbying, City Council recently passed a resolution spearheaded by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown calling on SEPTA to end the gender sticker policy.
Most recently, RAGE began a large membership drive, including a direct invitation to Joe Casey himself to become a member of RAGE. During this drive, RAGE’s official membership swelled to over 400 card-carrying members who have committed to working to end the gender sticker policy, to reporting incidents of gender-based harassment and to be a visible ally to transgender riders.
Because SEPTA’s fares are tariffed, fare policy changes such as removing gender stickers from passes require SEPTA to hold public hearings. These hearings, which were outlined in a letter sent to Max Ray by Joe Casey on April 11th, are planned for Spring 2013. SEPTA expects that the gender stickers will be removed during the second half of 2013. RAGE eagerly awaits this much-needed policy change, and intends to participate in the process to ensure that removing the gender stickers is a part of the final fare policy passed by the SEPTA board next spring.
“The oppression that transgender people face in our society can make us feel powerless, it can make us feel like victims. We hope that this victory can be a symbol for other trans people that we don’t have to wait for other people to change systems for us, we have the power to organize and create the changes ourselves,” said Nico Amador, founding member of RAGE.