Austen Crowder: What happened?
Erin Vaught: Last week I was in Indy to see my doc and told him I was coughing up a lot of blood, and without divulging what possible conditions could have caused it (privacy reasons) he told me to call him if it gets worse and that I had to figure out how to pay for an MRI and various other tests. On Sunday I coughed almost a cup of blood and decided to go to the E.R. The doc told me if I had to go to the E.R. to go to Muncie rather than New Castle, as they would be more tolerant being a bigger city and a university hospital.
So my partner and I got our son ready and drove to Muncie. We went into the hospital - not too busy considering - and the familiar looks started. I am used to them. So I go to the desk, my partner and son with me and start giving them my info. There were two people at the desk doing my intake; I think one was training. When they got to the surgery question, I told them all my surgries, and she kept pressing, "Are you sure you haven't had any other surgeries?" I said that I didn't.
They completed my regestration and I saw that had put "M" as my gender. I pointed out that my ID says female. She looked annoyed and the lady next to her snickered. She told this jock type triage person to take my vitals; he glared at me for a second and turned his head and said, "Remember payback sucks." I looked at him with a slightly angry look; he said, "Not about you, something from earlier."
So I figured, fair enough. We go back to the room after waiting in the waiting room for- it felt like maybe an hour, I wasn't watching the clock at that point. While we were walking to our room, there were more stares. We were sitting in the room with the door shut, and a nurse came in and told us they will probably want a urine test and she took me to the bathroom. While I was in there, I heard suppressed laughing and someone muttered something about "good thing it's a unisex bathroom." This was through the door - not to my face.
I was still trying to tell myself that it wasn't how I saw it until I got back to the room, and my partner was looking like she wanted to cry and fight someone at the same time. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me that people kept laughing while I was in there, and poking their heads in the room and asking about me. One nurse finally asked, "So is it a he or a she? Or a he-she?"
So my wife said to the nurse, "She is my wife, not an it."
To which the nurse replied with a chuckle, "Well, what do you want me to say? I can't tell. Until I know then he is an it. Now I know, and I know he is a he."
Then I came back to the room to find her almost crying. The nurse who had taken me to the bathroom came back and started asking me a bunch of questions, most I recognized as normal medical questions. Then she said, "How long have you been a transvestite?"
So I explained that I wasn't a transvestite, and for the millionth time proceeded with Transsexuality 101. I guess she had asked my partner the same thing when I was in the bathroom and was told the same thing.
She left the room and we proceeded to wait... and wait... and wait. After waiting about two hours or so she came back and gave my son a coloring book and a couple of crayons.
I read a report saying that the coloring book was used later to say "We were nice!"
Yep. That was their "proof" that no mistreatment took place.
So she came back in not long after bringing the coloring book and asked a series of bizarre questions. "Do you ever feel so angry you might lose control?" "Are you able to buy groceries every week?" "Do you ever feel overwhelmed?" "Have you ever thought about suicide?" We were confused and still are.
I was quite mad, but I kept it in check and said, "When are we going to see a doctor?" She told me that I could not be seen until I had my doc write orders. (For tests, I think she meant.) I said "Why do I need to do that? This is an emergency room."
She said, "Well, we don't know how to go about treating someone with your condition."
I responded, "I don't even know my condition. That's why I'm here!"
She replied, "No. Your other condition. The transvestite thing." I felt angry, and I was fighting my hardest to keep from crying, I was embarrassed and I grabbed my son and we left quickly so they wouldn't see me cry
And that was the whole incident, as well as my words can put it.
AC: Has the hospital been in contact with you since the whole incident happened?
EV: Once. The guy on the phone said he represented the nurses of Ball Memorial Hospital, and he said he wanted to know why I left. So I went off, and I told him why I left, and he pressed me for details. After a while, he said, "I am so sorry that out of the millions of people we have treated of every race, creed, and color, that you were the one person that experienced discrimination," in a really condescending tone.
I told him I would answer no more of his questions and my lawyers would be in touch. It took me quite a while to realize that when he said he "represented" the nurses, that he was probably a lawyer. (I cannot verify that, though. He never called again.)
AC: How has Muncie responded?
EV: I hadn't heard anything from Muncie until last night. The paper is setting up an interview.
AC: How about the LGBT community in the area? How is the reponse there?
EV: There is a rally and protest as well as a teaching event to be held in front of Ball Memorial, and several people in Muncie have RSVPed already. I knew almost nothing about the local community, but I am starting to meet them because of this. They are supportive.
It is not just the Muncie community; we have people showing there support from Indy, Fort Wayne, Lafayette, as well as nationally and globally. There is a press conference in West Hollywood on the 30th, and eleven news organizations will be there. Then the Muncie event with twelve confirmed news media events and several in attendance from the community. Code Pink, GLAAD, and several others will be at the West Hollywood press conference, along with about 200 people.
AC: That's incredible.
EV: know...sometimes i have to remind myself it is not a dream. I never thought people would rally out to support me. All this would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Dr. Arianna Davis and the GIEC.
AC: What's life like as a trans person like in rural indiana?
EV: Well, I have lived in many different rural areas in Indiana. All had different experiences. But as a whole I would say that it can be scary. After a while people seem to get used to me, and they consider me and Amanda just the weird contingent of the community. It's not even that where I am now. I have one neighbor, and corn fields on all sides of me. In some places though, it has been scary, very scary.
AC: In a perfect world, how would this issue with the hospital be resolved?
EV: In a perfect world it wouldn't have happened, but I would like to see an apology, as well as training in LGBTQI issues for all the staff. According to some message boards I have been on this week, this is not an isolated incident at Ball, and that's ridiculous. One time is one time too many. Out on the west coast I never experienced any problems.
Even in the smaller towns where my wife insists on living, people get cool after initial shock, and I get called the right pronouns by people in public, so yeah. The hospital has been an isolated incident over the last eight months or so.