SEPTA, advocacy group offer different explanations for removing gender stickers from TransPasses (UPDATED)

SEPTA TransPasses have been marked with "M" or "F" stickers since the 1980s.

It’s been a long time coming, but SEPTA has finally agreed to remove gender stickers from its monthly transit passes, volunteer advocacy group Riders Against Gender Exclusion announced. The exact reason for doing so remains the topic of some dispute.

“Because of our collective efforts, SEPTA has agreed to overturn this
discriminatory policy,” RAGE founding member Max Ray said in a release. “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.”

SEPTA general manager Joe Casey agreed in a recent meeting with the group to submit a proposal to the agency’s board of directors asking for the stickers to be eliminated the soonest date the policy can be changed, which is the second half of 2013, according to RAGE. The agency must first go through a process that includes public hearings, planned for the spring of 2013.

SEPTA reportedly agreed to remove the stickers about two years ago under its planned computerized “smart card” fare system, but that has been continually pushed back by federal funding and other delays, while the stickers have remained.

Casey agreed last week to remove the stickers before the completion of
the new payment technology, which is currently slated for 2014, according to a letter published by

But today SEPTA’s director of public affairs Richard Maloney said that
the change is, in fact, a long-planned part of the new chip-based fare
system in which riders will load TransPasses with funds via cash, credit card or smartphone rather than buy them for a period of unlimited use. He said the fare changes will begin to be implemented in early 2013, not 2014.

“The new system is
not coming in all in one day. It’s going in by
different systems – buses at one time, subways and then eventually
regional rail,” he said. “As the new system is implemented piece by
we’re simply replacing one payment system with another. It’s not a
matter of removing the stickers.”

“I know the RAGE people put out a press release this week, but this is
something that’s been in the works as we’ve been planning a complete
overhaul of our fare collection system,” Maloney continued. “The current weekly and monthly passes, once you have a
pass, it’s unlimited use. … The new passes, when they
go into effect in the beginning of next year, will be like an E-ZPass.
The value is added so when you buy the pass, there will be value to it,
making necessity of differentiation between male and female or anyone
else moot.”

RAGE has been fighting a grassroots campaign since 2009 to remove the
stickers, gathering thousands of petition signatures, organizing
membership drives and staging highly visible public protests.

The cause gained a high-profile advocate in Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, who pledged to work with the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club on the issue in 2011 and passed a resolution in City Council late last month urging SEPTA to remove the stickers.

“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,” Reynolds Brown said when the legislation was introduced. “We
hope this resolution will move the needle further toward our goal.”

Right now, passes are demarcated with “M” or “F” stickers based on the gender shown on a rider’s state-issued identification. “To minimize people passing the passes around
among families or pizza delivery shops or whatever, when the passes went
into effect in the early 80s, we used the stickers as an effort to minimize [the activity],” Maloney said, though many have argued that the policy isn’t a particularly effective safeguard against fraud.

But the rule has had the unintended side effect of making it more difficult for transgender riders or those who do not present themselves as distinctly male or female to take public transit. Riders have been harassed, subject to embarrassing public lines of questioning by transit drivers, “outed” to other riders and had their passes confiscated, according to RAGE.

“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,” RAGE founding member Nico Amador said. “We have the power to organize and create the changes ourselves.”


MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…


U.N. nuclear inquiry on Iran seen making slow…

The U.N. nuclear watchdog appears to have made only limited progress so far in getting Iran to answer questions about its suspected atomic bomb research, diplomatic sources said on Friday,…


Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm

By Nick Carey and Carey GillamFERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The violence-weary town of Ferguson, Missouri, saw a second straight evening of relative calm on Thursday…


Journalist James Foley's parents, after call with pope,…

The parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, on Friday called for prayer and support to free the remaining captives held by Islamic…


Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.


Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm


Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.


Michael Chiklis on his football past and 'When…

Michael Chiklis remembers playing football in high school and how that prepped him to play a coach in "When the Game Stands Tall."


3 things we learned about the Giants in…

The Giants claimed the Snoopy trophy in a battle of MetLife Stadium tenants Friday night. But more importantly, the offense finally showed some life in…


3 things we learned about the Jets in…

The Jets lost the Snoopy Bowl, 35-24, to the Giants, losing the trophy and local bragging rights.


Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.


Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.


Asics is giving away free gear around NYC…

Asics wants to see you on the court - and in the stands for the U.S. Open, which begins Monday - by giving away free…


Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…


Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…


Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…