When you buy a monthly public transport pass in Philadelphia, you have to choose if you want a boy-pass or a girl-pass if you're buying online. In person, the agent at the counter will judge for herself whether you should be using a boy-pass or a girl-pass.
I'm not exagerrating. Check out the SEPTA site yourself (screenshot right); they make you tick off the month you want to use the pass and which gender you are, that's it.
The idea seems to be in place to prevent card-sharing, since apparently the gender marker completely prevents that. Two men or two women would never share a bus pass because that's gay.
I read about this a few years ago and it seemed so ridiculous (what does gender have to do with one's ability to ride the bus? if the passes bestow the same rights on the bearer, why are there two different ones?) and activists were taking a solid stand so I thought they'd have won by now. But apparently not:
"SEPTA told us in October 2009 that a new system would be in place within the year," Ray said. "So we don't have a lot of faith in their timelines."
Besides, he said, the sticker system is not technology-based, so it is unrelated to the use of smart cards.
Still, the SEPTA board is adamant.
"The board voted to continue with it [the stickers] until a full change takes place. No more talk at the board level is planned," Williams said. "The decision has been made."
The policy has resulted in transgender people being questioned about their gender in front of the entire bus as well as drivers charging them for the cost of a ride even though they already have a monthly pass. It's not a lot of money, but I'd imagine it's needlessly humiliating process.
More importantly, I can't see why there's a need for separate passes based on one's gender. I remember in elementary school we had to walk down the hall in two lines - one for boys and one for girls. It was silly and I'm glad that the schools I worked in last year just divided the kids in half to walk in line instead of imposing on children the idea that the most thing about their identity is what's between their legs.
This is 2011. Separate bus passes for men and women? Seriously? My pass here has a picture on it since it's a reusable card. Other cities I've been to use disposable cards with no identifying information on them and card-sharing doesn't seem like a big problem there because it's terribly inconvenient for a number of reasons. And, really, gender markers prevent card-sharing only as much as gender markers on the doors of bathrooms prevent perverts from assaulting someone in a public restroom. It's a little sticker, not magic.
Change.org has a petition about this.