After a four-year campaign by LGBT activists, SEPTA has agreed to remove gender stickers from its weekly and monthly transit passes, though its motivation remains a topic of debate.
“Because of our collective efforts, SEPTA has agreed to overturn this discriminatory policy,” Max Ray of advocacy group Riders Against Gender Exclusion said in a release.
SEPTA general manager Joe Casey agreed in a recent meeting with RAGE to submit a proposal asking for the stickers to be eliminated as soon as possible — in the second half of 2013, according to a letter he wrote to Ray. He said their removal would come ahead of the agency’s planned new payment technology system, which was finally begun last year and was slated to take about two years to install.
But yesterday, SEPTA spokesman Richard Maloney said that the eradication of the stickers is, in fact, a long-planned part of the new chip-based fare system, all of which will begin to be installed in early 2013, not 2014. The system will use a reloadable card rather than a pass offering unlimited rides in a given time period, rendering the need to protect against sharing or fraud moot.
“As the new system is implemented piece by piece, we’re simply replacing one payment system with another. It’s not a matter of removing the stickers,” he said. “I know the RAGE people put out a press release this week, but this is something that’s been in the works.”
Passes have been marked with “M” or “F” stickers since the early 1980s, but the rule has had unintended side effects on riders who do not present themselves as distinctly male or female. They have been harassed, subject to embarrassing lines of public questioning by transit workers, “outed” to other riders and had their passes confiscated, according to RAGE.