On Friday, when reports began surfacing that the MTA would be changing their announcement greeting to include gender-neutral phrasing, I immediately knew what I had to do.
The MTA office was modestly furnished. I took comfort in this observation and can now rest peacefully with the knowledge that last year’s fare hike was not spent on bean bags or office meditation rooms. I was greeted by a young drag queen pouring whiskey into her coffee.
“Hello, welcome. How may I help you?”
“I have an important message for the people in this office.”
“One moment,” she said, her pink-manicured finger pointed to the seating area as she lifted the phone to her ear. I sat down in a grey upholstered chair opposite of the desk.
My waiting trance was broken by a very sassy voice. “Excuse me miss, what did you say your name was?” Blonde hair and a set of eyes peered over the desk.
“It’s Justice, Justice York.”
“Cute, I’m Coco.”
Coco became re-absorbed into her phone conversation for a moment, lightly clicked the phone down and joined me in the waiting area.
“So, what’s this news?” Coco was leaning forward, her hands were on her lap.
“I don’t want to make a big deal out of it. I heard something about switching to gender-neutral terminology like “everyone” and “riders,” but does the MTA really know what the issue is? Do they know how bad they are…?” My fingers closed the air quotes that were hanging around my mouth and landed in my lap.
Coco creased her forehead in concern, “How bad what are?”
I lowered my voice to a whisper. “The delays.”
Coco began quivering. She took a deep breath as she wiped a tear from her cheek and abruptly stood up.
“I had no idea,” she grabbed my hand and began dragging me through the office.
As we ran past desks and cubicles, I could see a number of faces clearly questioning their own gender identities without my input. These are the people responsible for making me an "everyone."
We ran past a frazzled assistant straight into the office, stopping a foot short of a wooden desk.
“Ms. York, this is Mr. Gregory Stanley. Can you tell him what you told me in the waiting room?”
He was a handsome man in his forties dressed in a grey suit behind a heavy oak desk. Mr. Stanley seemed very uninterested in what I was about to say.
“Mr. Stanley, I came here to tell you and all of the MTA about the delays.”
“Beth,” it was loud and short and startling after the minute-long silence that followed my statement. Beth appeared in the doorframe before he finished her name.
“Close the door.” After a short click and few steps into the room, Mr. Stanley continued, “did you know about the delays?”
Beth dropped her mug of coffee and for the first time looked at everyone in the room. Mr. Stanley nodded and she immediately bolted. The coffee stayed on the ground.
A moment later, a siren and flashing lights filled the room.
“This is not a drill, I repeat this is not a drill. The trains are delayed,” Beth’s voice screeched over the siren into a megaphone as she walked around the office.
Thousands of MTA employees clad in suits, hard hats, and carrying toolkits poured out of the building high rise and into the nearest subway stations to immediately begin hammering the subway tracks.
Accountants, graphics designers, lawyers, web developers, office managers all poured out, tools in hand, ready to tackle the REAL issues.
All except for Allen, who I found typing in a cubicle on the twenty-second floor.
“Shouldn’t you be with the rest?” Allen had chosen to decorate the all of the wall space in his cubicle with charts, graphs, and statistics.
New York City has the largest population of LGBT residents in the United States: over 700,000 people
was circled in red.
In 2016, average weekday subway ridership was 5.7 million, the highest since 1948. Annual ridership was 1.757 billion was scribbled on a sticky note and hanging on the corner of his computer screen.
“I will, I just have to finish this memo. All of the train announcements need to be updated. We’re switching the language from Ladies and gentlemen to riders, passengers, and everyone. It’s gender neutral, so now the MTA no longer excludes a population of passengers that use the subway system. Lastly, it’s easier for non-English speaking tourists to identify a word like everyone, and overall just makes the communication more direct.”
Allen paused from typing and pushed his glass further up the bridge of his nose.
“It’s a small change that won’t negatively impact anyone but will positively impact one of the most at-risk populations in NYC. Plus this is my job to spend time talking to people and understanding the impact and role MTA’s verbal and written communication with the millions of people who ride every day.
“There are train delays. Fuck you, Allen.”
In all seriousness, New York City has served as a safe haven for the marginalized for centuries. Looking around at some of the responses from media outlets and people—whether it’s on Twitter or in comments to many of the articles about this—I find it saddening that so many are outraged with the switch away from a three-word exclusionary phrase to a one-word inclusive phrase.
For those who would like to debate the economic angle, the 2015 “no- spreading” subway campaign cost New York taxpayers roughly $76,000. Compare that number to the total number of ridership that year (1,762,565,41,9) and you'll see the MTA is spending fractions of a penny per rider. This project will not require a budget for printing and installation of advertising.
The update in the language is simply another customer experience improvement for the MTA. This is no different than the integration of art through art-devoted advertisement space and installations in stations, adding time tickers to subway cars, or air conditioning. Read more about the planned MTA improvements and the timeline here.
For those upset by the use of the words “everyone,” “rider,” and “passenger,” I have some pretty tragic news: if you take public transportation, all of those words apply to you. These words also apply to the people sitting and standing next to you regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ability, or religion.
These reactions have nothing to do with concern over the MTA budget, the war of liberal political correctness, or the secret evil plans of gays taking over New York City—they are the product of the privileged losing exclusive priority.
Or, would you prefer to leave the recordings inaudible and offensive?