Pharmacists play an important, gatekeeper-like role in the world of healthcare — so, when they refuse service to someone on the basis of identity or personal beliefs, it’s a problem which ultimately concerns all of us.
Hilde Hall, a trans woman in Fountain Hills, Arizona, went to a local CVS this past spring to fill a hormone prescription from her doctor and quickly encountered unprofessional and damaging bigotry, courtesy of her pharmacist.
In a blog post for the ACLU, Hall explains how she excited she was when she went to the pharmacy after receiving her first prescriptions for hormone therapy from her doctor. “I was finally going to start seeing my body reflect my gender identity and the woman I’ve always known myself to be,” she writes.
Unfortunately, the dream quickly turned into a nightmare when the pharmacist refused to fill the prescriptions for Hall, and proceeded to interrogate her, presumably because she is trans.
“After years of working to affirm my identity in a world where transgender people are questioned constantly about how well they know themselves, the pharmacist refused to fill one of the prescriptions needed to affirm my identity. He did not give me a clear reason for the refusal. He just kept asking, loudly and in front of other CVS staff and customers, why I was given the prescriptions.”
“Embarrassed and distressed, I nearly started crying in the middle of the store,” she writes. “I didn’t want to answer why I had been prescribed this hormone therapy combination by my doctor. I felt like the pharmacist was trying to out me as transgender in front of strangers. I just froze and worked on holding back the tears.”
To make matters worse, the pharmacist didn’t even allow Hall to take the prescription note with her, so she was unable to fill the prescription elsewhere.
“I left the store feeling mortified,” she recalls.
Though CVS did not initially respond to the issue, Hall’s assistance from the ACLU of Arizona quickly brought about an apology from the company — and an assurance that the pharmacist in question was not following company guidelines, and that they no longer work at CVS.
“We also apologize for not appropriately following up on Ms. Hall’s original complaint to CVS, which was due to an unintentional oversight, ” CVS adds in a statement to CNN. “We pride ourselves in addressing customer concerns in a timely manner and we are taking steps to prevent this isolated occurrence from happening again.”
It is particularly important for pharmacy chains like CVS to show their support for trans people in the wake of the Trump administration rapidly rolling back health care protections for the trans community.
“No one should be denied health care because of who they are,”ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Joshua Block tells CNN. “It is critical that CVS ensures no one is harassed when taking a valid prescription into one of their pharmacies.”
“My family supports me, fortunately, and helped me work through the anger and humiliation this experience caused,” Hall concludes. “But many other transgender people are not as fortunate as I am. I don’t want to think about what might happen if this pharmacist mistreats a transgender person who does not have a good social support system.”