As you may be aware Florida made the news in 2007 when a woman was denied access to her partner in Jackson Memorial Hospital in South Florida during her partner’s final moments. The Hospital finally changed its non-discrimination policy recently to include the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual community, although they have yet to apologize to this woman’s family, and their mistake is something that cannot be reversed.                 

     This outraged many, including President Obama who has since issued the executive order that any hospital receiving Medicare and Medicaid must allow same sex couples the same visiting rights as heterosexual couples.While this case has nothing to do with Gender Identity, it has affected those in our community and got us thinking about our often forgotten transgender brothers and sisters. If this state treats gay and lesbian citizens so poorly in hospitals because of ignorance and hate, how must they treat the transgender person in the hospital? Our LGBT community members are seen as second-class citizens, even down to the hospital visits.                 

     This is more than upsetting to us, this is unacceptable.  We decided change is needed, and it is needed now.  Come Out Orlando is coming out for transgender persons in our community.  Currently there are a few hospitals in Florida that have added sexual orientation to their anti-discrimination policies but not a single one has protections based on gender identity. Because of this we are working with the community and the three major hospital systems (Health Central, Florida Hospital, and Orlando Health) to see that our needs are met.                                    


 •           Gender identity added to the patient bill of rights and/or hospital patient non-discrimination policies. 
•         Diversity/sensitivity trainings given to all hospital staff, informing them of transgender-specific issues, which will be provided free of charge.
•         All patient forms to include a space for “gender identity” for individuals to be able to let hospital staff know their needs.
•         Medical Professionals at local hospitals become educated as to the unique medical needs of transgender patients.  

Steps We Take Towards Equality             

     We believe that ignorance is not bliss and the only cure is education. That is exactly where we began. First we educate ourselves, then the public and private entities of Florida. This work started by doing research on what leading world class hospital systems have implemented to make their hospitals more gender identity friendly. Then by informing the public about what other hospitals have done for our community, what our hospital system are not doing, and what they can do to help. We are spreading the word across town, asking people to call and ask the hospitals with their questions regarding transgender patients.             

     We have received responses from all three hospital systems. Recently representatives from our group have met with Louis Preston, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Florida Hospital. At this meeting we were given the opportunity to provide him with information about who we are, why we were there, and why gender identity is so important to us.            
     He was cordial towards us, informed us that he would speak with his superiors, and react according to their instructions. He continually reminded us that Florida hospital “cares” and would say something that sounded scripted, and unofficial.  When I personally asked whom should be present at future meetings, or whom I should speak with in case his superiors turned down our requests and offers, I was given the response “you will only speak to Louis Preston, and no one else.” I was personally offended when he told me I needed to show more compassion, in a random statement.           

     I then asked “compassion for whom sir? For you, or the individuals lying in your hospital beds?"He often looked down while he spoke, spoke slowly and calmly and even referred to himself as a father figure, showing me he did not respect us as a group of individuals, and personally disregarded me based on my youthful appearance.       

     Currently we are waiting to hear back from Susan Grusvka, the administrator of clinical support at Health Central. We have a scheduled appointment with Tom Yoesle - CEO of Patient Financial Services of Orlando Health set up to discuss changes they can implement in their hospital systems.                

     Actions speak louder than words. We do not simply educate people, then sit back and wait for our rights. We take the initiative towards equality. We do not just educate the hospitals and ask that gender identity rights be granted. They need resources, and we find them. We show them how their hospitals can become more LGBT friendly.  Some representatives have given us the impression that they agree with us that NO ONE should be discriminated against, especially in a hospital situation, and that they will work with us to ensure ALL patients feel safe and understood. In working together I’m optimistic that we can create change in our community: one person, one small organization, one hospital at a time. 
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