“What happened next” is the title of a column in Indiana’s Star Press dated July 9, 2011, that follows up on a July 2010 case that garnered national attention. The incident took place at Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie, Indiana. A transgender woman said that she was called “it” and “he-she” when she went to the hospital’s emergency room coughing up blood, and was ultimately denied treatment. She complained widely and loudly, and engaged Indiana Equality and the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance in filing formal complaints against the hospital, which “quickly released a statement saying the hospital was conducting an internal review of its ‘care policies, employee benefits, and diversity training.’”
“The hospital apologized and reached out to [the wronged patient] and the two advisory groups. Together they came up with a plan to improve services.”
A year later, the hospital has earned top marks in the Human Rights Campaign annual Healthcare Equality Index, meeting a “list of seven criteria that included writing explicitly inclusive visitation policies and offering LGBT healthcare-issues training, equal employment opportunities and non-discriminatory policies regarding sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.” The hospital’s director of public relations and marketing said the hospital will work to “constantly improve” its policies to make sure that “everyone feels they have a safe environment here.”
In a similar situation, the Bilerico Project reported on July 11, 2011, there’s been a positive settlement in a lawsuit brought against the owners of a Denny’s restaurant in Maine. Here a transgender woman claimed that a manager denied her the right to use the women’s restroom. After the Maine Superior Court ruled that such an action would be a violation of the Maine Human Rights Act, the holding company (which owns six Denny’s restaurants in Maine) settled the lawsuit by agreeing that at all the restaurants it operates, all transgender individuals will have access to the restroom consistent with their stated gender identity. A spokesperson for the company said, “[The complainant’s] transition and this lawsuit presented a new issue for us. It has been an educational process, and we affirm our commitment to provide top-notch services to all of our customers. We believe the resolution of this case will work well for all of our customers and preserved the dignity and safety of all.”
By not ignoring discriminatory and offensive treatment, these women advanced the rights of all of us. Not all complaints turn out so well, but it’s important to remember that sometimes major advancements come out of what starts as one individual’s outrage.