By Amy Chen & Hayley Penan
Imagine lying in an operating room, bright fluorescent lights shine in your eyes as a blur of health providers move around you preparing the room for emergency surgery. In the midst of this chaos, a nurse asks you why your chart says female when you present as male. The reality sinks in that you have to “out” yourself as transgender to this stranger. The nurse looks you up and down and starts in with warnings about your endangered soul and singing religious hymns at every opportunity. Later, as you are waking after surgery, you hear a nurse say to your spouse, “We don’t treat your kind here. You’re making the staff and other patients uncomfortable.” Your spouse is escorted out by security; the nurse shoves a pain pill down your throat and puts you, groggy and nauseated, into a wheelchair to send you home.
In the car home, you feel feverish and begin vomiting so violently that your stitches burst open. The hospital will not let you return, telling your insurance company, “We don’t know what he, she, it—whatever the f*** it calls itself wants or needs from us. We’re done. We did our job.” Eventually an ambulance takes you to a hospital 40 miles away for treatment of life-threatening complications.
This really happened to Dannie Ceseña at a Dignity Health hospital in California. Dannie bravely shared this experience in his public testimony at one of the California attorney general’s 17 hearings statewide on the impact of the merger between Dignity and Catholic Healthcare Initiatives (CHI).
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