Members of Philly Riders Against Gender Exclusion (RAGE) descended upon 1234 Market Street Thursday morning to give SEPTA a little talking to. See, it’s been two years, they say, since SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey told them the problem of “Male” and “Female” identification stickers on weekly and monthly transpasses would soon be solved. And, well, not so much.
So, around 11am, five members of the group brought a cardboard cut-out of a SEPTA bus reading “Rage” and “Phillyrage.org” to SEPTA headquarters, to confront the Authority.
“Two years ago, they said SEPTA is not going to remove the gender stickers until SEPTA comes out with new technology,” RAGE member Max Ray told PW. “And he said it would take a year. And we said, ‘Are you saying within a year the gender stickers will be off our passes and we’ll all have the same one?’ And he said ‘yes.’”
To say that hasn’t yet materialized would be an understatement.
“Now it’s two years down the road and we’re hearing that it’ll be, if we’re lucky, three years before the new technology comes into play,” Ray said.
SEPTA began putting “Male” and “Female” stickers on its transpasses back in the 80s to eliminate fraud, mostly amongst families. It was found that men would take the train into the city for work using the pass, then hand it to their wives, who’d trek to Philly for weekend shopping. “It was to cut that down,” said Director of Public Affairs Richard Maloney, also at the protest. “Are we eliminating fraud all together? No. But we know we’ve cut back on it.”
Ray offered the story of a member citing an incident on the RAGE’s Facebook page, in which a transgender individual attempted to use a female pass. “But the driver thought I was too masculine to use my female pass,” said Ray, re-enacting the message. “And in the process of trying to use my female pass, everyone on the bus started looking at me and I could tell people were staring at my chest trying to figure out, ‘What are they? What are they?’”
And it’s not any driver’s fault, said Ray. That’s just SEPTA policy. It’s enforced by General Manager Joe Casey (whom they’ve somewhat passive-aggressively invited to become a member of RAGE) and voted upon by the Authority’s Board.
In an attempt to quiet RAGE’s rage, SEPTA established a hotline for Philadelphians to call if they feel discriminated against while on public transportation. “We haven’t had any calls,” said Maloney. “So, if we have individual issues, we will deal with that. We will not tolerate discrimination of any sort. We will follow up and investigate it. But that hasn’t been the case.”
But RAGE refuses to back down any time soon. The group plans a trip to have their voices heard in Harrisburg in mid-October and already have the support of Pennsylvania Rep. Babette Josephs and Senator Larry Farnese.
“Any time you’re saying there’s a group of Philadelphians whose safety is not important to us, that’s a discrimination issue,” said Ray. “SEPTA is being discriminatory to us and we’re going to continue to make this a front burner issue.”