Nurse calls transgender woman dressed as Mrs Santa Claus 'sir', hospital apologises for the insult
34-year-old Chantelle Saunders, who is going through transition from male to female, said that she was left "very, very upset" by how she was treated by staff at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital
A hospital in the UK has apologized to a transgender woman who visited a ward in the building dressed as Mrs. Santa Claus on Christmas after a nurse mistook her for a man and then expressed disgust when she was corrected.
Thirty four-year-old Chantelle Saunders, who is going through transition from male to female, said that she was left "very, very upset" by how she was treated by staff at the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital.
In a letter, the hospital told Saunders that the nurse had believed she was a man because "you had a full beard and were dressed in male attire". They have now apologized, however, and have said that they are eager to speak to Saunders and see if they can "explore how we can resolve any remaining issues she has", the Daily Mail reported.
Saunders said that she never had a beard even before she started her transition 3 years ago, and slammed the nurse's comments. She said: "I was very, very upset. I'm a transgender woman - transitioning from male to female. I went to visit my friend in hospital on Christmas Eve on one of the RD&E wards. She was in having an operation and there was a nurse in the cubicle. I said 'Happy Christmas' and the nurse replied 'Er...it's a man'. I said 'No I'm a transgender woman' and she said 'errgh'."
The furious woman also said that she had complained to the NHS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) and had received a comment back from the assistant head of nursing who apologized for saying, "Happy Christmas, sir".
Saunders said: "But I appealed and made another complaint about that because they didn't speak to me or speak to my two witnesses. Now I have had a letter back from the deputy chief executive/chief nurse which basically says that the nurse involved has no recollection of making the comment - but again they never spoke to my two witnesses."
Sanders then read out part of the letter, which stated that staff at the hospital were trained to inquire about how people want to be addressed. She continued: "The bit of the letter that has really upset me is this bit, it says, 'However when a person is visited we are advised to address the person as they are seen. In your case, I understand you had a full beard and were dressed in male attire'."
The woman also said that if the hospital had contacted all of her witnesses, they would all testify that she was dressed as a woman that day, as she had been doing for the past three years ever since she started transitioning and taking female hormones. She said: "I am always dressed as a woman. I had full make-up. I had my hair on. I am on female hormones and do not have a beard."
She continued: "Even my passport shows that I am female. This second letter is even worse than the first. Life is difficult enough when you are transitioning. I have had hate crimes committed against me. But I am very surprised that this is how I have been treated. They are usually very good and treat me properly. But this is just ridiculous."
20-year-old Chloe Palmer, a friend of Saunders', said: "I was with Chantelle. She had got a Mrs. Claus outfit from Ann Summers and she had stockings and make-up and her hair done. I was upset because in that industry they should be used to having different kinds of people going in and out without passing judgment. I was a bit shocked."
Chief Nurse Em Wilkinson-Brice said in a statement from the hospital: "We are always sorry to hear when a patient or visitor is unhappy with their experience at the RD&E. In this case we have investigated the complaint and apologized for any offense caused. We are keen to speak with Ms. Saunders to explore how we can resolve any remaining issues she has. All staff at the RD&E undergo equality and diversity training as standard, reflecting the importance we place on the value of inclusion and collaboration."