Reader Jordan emailed us with the suggestion to write about SEPTA’s Gender Discrimination Controversy, and we’re very happy she did because it’s a very interesting issue that has arose in the City of Philadelphia. Since I don’t usually try to play politics on here intentionally, I will attempt to be as neutral as possible on this issue in the hopes that I do not offend anybody. If I do, it wasn’t on purpose.
SEPTA is currently under a lot of scrutiny over a sticker that is placed on their transpasses. Please look at the image of the transpass below for future reference:
In the upper left part of the transpass is a sticker that either says M or F, which is used by SEPTA as a means of confirming one’s gender as a fraud prevention measure. From SEPTA’s perspective, this sticker will prevent people from sharing transpasses, and also keep people from making counterfeit passes. Therefore, they will be able to keep making money, which is obviously their number one priority.
The controversy here is that this is a clear example of gender discrimination, of which is there are many laws to protect against, and that this is discriminatory in particular towards Philadelphia’s transgender community. This policy has led to some very interesting dilemmas for those in Philadelphia’s transgendered community, such as Charlene Acrila. Acrila was told she could not board the bus with the “F” sticker on her transpass, so in desperation to get to her job as an HIV/AIDS counselor, she got the “M” sticker affixed to her transpass, but was still unable to board the bus.
This is a serious problem for Philly’s transgendered community and for SEPTA because if they are denied usage of their transpass on SEPTA’s modes of transportation due to what is perceived to be a error by SEPTA employees who are truthfully just trying to do their job (although we all know there are probably SEPTA employees who could be a lot nicer about addressing this matter), SEPTA is just begging for a huge lawsuit. Transgendered people deserve the same amount of respect as those who can use the male/female sticker without any issue whatsoever. If SEPTA is so hellbent on using this sticker as a means of fraud prevention, regardless of its proven ineffectiveness, then they will need to come up with a way to address the situation so that transgendered individuals are not discriminated against.
The transgendered individuals who are told their transpasses are invalid due to the controversial sticker have had to pay full fare out of their own pockets to ride SEPTA instead of using the perfectly acceptable transpass they bought as a means of saving money.
This controversy has been going on for years, and to the best of my knowledge it is still present here in Philadelphia. SEPTA claims that once the new high-tech fare system is in place, the gender stickers will be removed and this will no longer be an issue. However, this will not be for a while, so it looks like the gender stickers are going to be around for a while.
What do you think about this issue—does SEPTA have a right to put these stickers on their transpasses as a fraud prevention measure, or is it obvious discrimination against Philadelphia’s transgendered community?
Thanks for the post idea, Jordan. It’s an interesting topic and I enjoyed writing about it.
**Edit 8/27/11: I purchased a transpass this morning and yes, the gender stickers are still being utilized**