Forbes Hospital’s Inadequate Response to Transphobic Employees

Via KDKA TV, last night I learned about a developing story at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville. Some anonymous female employees at this Allegheny Health Network facility had voiced complaints about a trans woman employee being permitted to use the ladies bathroom.

First, the good. Allegheny Health Network is following the law with regard to allowing all female employees to use their female employee facilities. The KDKA segment includes a nice interview with PA Physicial General Dr. Rachel Levine who also happens to be a trans woman. Dr. Levine made excellent points. State Representative Dan Frankel, a former health insurance executive, also weighed in with solid points about discrimination. And they wrap the story with an interview with a trans woman of color from Philly which is pretty good except for Philly? Why not talk with someone from Pittsburgh who may or may not use the hospital?

The downside is clearly – why does a rumor about some unnamed transphobic employees merit a story? It isn’t like there’s wiggle room with the law. The wiggle room is that Allegheny Health Network needs to also ensure that ALL employees are culturally competent with regard to gender identity. I didn’t see that addressed in their statement.

“We are an equal opportunity employer that respects the rights of all individuals. With respect to transgender individuals accessing specific bathrooms or locker room facilities on our hospital campuses, we make decisions intended to respect the rights of all employees impacted, while complying with all applicable laws.”

Then there’s a really big elephant in this story – what about patient care? If you can’t pee in a stall next to a trans person, why would I think you are capable of providing top-notch health care to a trans person? Or anyone who is gender nonconforming?

Health care professionals walk through hell together – they deal with crisis, with horrible death and loss, with sadness and tragedy and triumph. They count on one another, from the techs to the board, to make decisions that allow they to act rapidly in an emergency.  If you are so uninformed about gender identity that you have actual fears around sharing a locker room or a bathroom with someone who in the next ten minutes could be elbow deep in a lifesaving procedure with you, that’s frightening.

I get that people have opinions. They have to demonstrate that they can separate their opinions from their professional requirements every single day. It is up to their employer to make sure that’s happening.

And, frankly, I’m not confident that Allegheny Health Network is stepping up here. The cis women voicing concerns do not need media exposure; they require more training. They don’t need their fear fed by legal lingo that suggests there are two sides to this issue. There are not. There is the right side, the legal side, the ethical and moral side and the side of all federal regulations around health care. And there is the opposite – people who violate ethics, morals and laws to feed fear. Fear is not a professional value and neither is ignorance.  The National Center for Transgender Equality has a nice summary of federal regulation of hospitals for LGBTQ patients.

I hope Allegheny Health Network brings in some training to Forbes Regional and stat. It is bad enough to worry about bathroom confrontations when we are at an Eat n’ Park in McCandless. I don’t want to add a major hospital in my in-network system to the list, especially the hospital that houses the most behavioral health inpatient beds. That’s disturbing.

And it is really important that these anonymous cis women employed by Forbes Hospital understand that their fear has consequences for the general public. I don’t trust them to provide me with competent health care. And since I don’t know who they are, I’ll just consider all female employees of this hospital to be potential transphobes. So that’s a problem, right?

Also, KDKA continues to be inconsistent in their coverage which I chalk up to their unwillingness to use the GLAAD (or a similar) Media Guide. They used the term “transgendered” which is inaccurate and unfair. Fairness and accuracy matter in hard news stories. If only the outlet would make sure all reporters have access to this free online guide to consult before they file their stories. Here’s the scoop on transgenderED

Problematic: “transgendered”
Preferred: transgenderThe adjective transgender should never have an extraneous “-ed” tacked onto the end. An “-ed” suffix adds unnecessary length to the word and can cause tense confusion and grammatical errors. It also brings transgender into alignment with lesbian, gay, and bisexual. You would not say that Elton John is “gayed” or Ellen DeGeneres is “lesbianed,” therefore you would not say Chaz Bono is “transgendered.”

I think the video of Dr. Levine is amazing and she’s amazing and we need as much Dr. Levine in the world as we can manage. Watch the clip. 

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