Transphobia on Philadelphia’s public buses and trains: A Colourful Conversation with Andrea Lamour-Harrington
By Andrea Lamour-Harrington
I live in the fair city of Philadelphia, PA – “the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection.” Now let me elaborate on just how loving we are. I am a member of RAGE (Riders Against Gender Exclusion), a group of trans men and women who have banded together to bring justice to our community. The main focus of RAGE is to bring attention to the discrimination against the trans community by SEPTA, Philadelphia’s public transportation system – the only means of transportation for many Philadelphians.
Our trans community is being attacked in a very open and legal way. But may I remind you, that just because something is legal does not make it fair and just. It is SEPTA’s practice to use gender markers, “F” for female and “M” for male, on their monthly pre-paid transit passes. SEPTA is the only public transportation system in the entire U.S. to do this! Their reason? To prevent anyone from sharing their pass with others. SEPTA has made it a practice to humiliate trans men and women by bullying them when they get on the bus in front of other passengers. For example, when a trans woman uses a pass with a “F” but the driver does not believe you are a biological woman, they have the right to deny a passenger a ride if they do not pay a cash fair or use a token. Similarly, if you identify as a female, but your transit pass says “M,” or you identify as male, but your transit pass says “F,” they have the right to deny a ride.
This is more than a trans issue. Since when is it a just procedure to judge anyone based on appearance? Just imagine how humiliating it is to be out-ed in front of an entire bus or train. The fear alone puts trans woman and men in jeopardy of not seeking medical care, not being on time for job interviews, or for work. Every time an HIV-positive person misses an appointment, it puts their life at risk.
RAGE has made a valiant effort to stop this injustice by holding many peaceful demonstrations, writing letters to government authorities, and holding press conferences. Support us by going to our website (phillyrage.org or contact PWN) and becoming a RAGE member, signing our petition, or attend a meeting if you live in Philly!
Andrea Lamour-Harrington is the Community PROMISE Coordinator at the Colours Organization, a leader in PWN-USA, and RAGE advocate. She is based in Philadelphia, PA.