Health indignity: A Carmichael hospital denied a trans man his hysterectomy. Now he’s suing.
Dignity Health moves patient’s surgery to another hospital over Catholic directives
Two days before Evan Minton’s scheduled hysterectomy last September at Dignity Health Mercy San Juan Medical Center, a nurse called to discuss pre- and post-operation care. Toward the end of the call, Minton had a request.
“’I just want to let you know that I’m transgender and my pronouns mean a great deal to me,’” he recalled saying.
According to Minton, the nurse was affirming. He hung up with a positive feeling. But the next day his doctor called with bad news. The hospital had canceled the procedure. He was terrified that the cancellation would add months or years to his physical transition.
Now, seven months later, the 35-year-old is teaming up with the American Civil Liberties Union to sue Dignity Health for denying care to a transgender patient.
“It devastated me and I don’t want anyone else to have to go through it,” Minton said.
According to the lawsuit, Minton’s physician scheduled his hysterectomy as part of the treatment for his gender dysphoria, a condition defined by the distress people experience as a result of their gender and sex assigned at birth not aligning with their gender identity. As San Juan is routinely host to hysterectomies for conditions other than gender dysphoria, the complaint argues that its cancellation of Minton’s procedure is discrimination based on his gender identity.
In a prepared statement, Dignity Health Mercy San Juan Medical Center said it couldn’t comment on Minton’s allegations since it had not yet been served with the complaint.
“We understand how important this surgery is for transgender individuals, and were happy to provide Mr. Minton and his surgeon the use of another Dignity Health hospital for his surgery within a few days,” the statement reads.
The reason he could have his surgery at that hospital and not at San Juan?
“We do not provide elective sterilizations at Dignity Health’s Catholic facilities in accordance with the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services (ERDs) and the medical staff bylaws.”
Ben Hudson, executive director of the Gender Health Center—which assists trans men and women on their transitions—doesn’t buy it.
“You can’t tell someone that they can’t get access to some sort of care that is medically significant to them because you don’t believe in it or your religion doesn’t support it,” Hudson said. “You’re refusing care that a physician has said is necessary.”
Gender dysphoria is a newly redefined condition appearing in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ fifth edition, published in 2013. Originally called Gender Identity Disorder in earlier versions of the DSM, gender dysphoria underscores the distress experienced by a person with the condition. Treatment for gender dysphoria often includes support of the patient’s gender identity through hormone therapy and surgery.
Hudson believes San Juan’s cancellation of the surgery has less to do with sterilization policy and more to do with their discomfort with trans men and women. “When someone says hysterectomy, you don’t think sterilization,” he said. “Nobody does.”
Now that Minton has had time to care for himself mentally and physically in the months since the canceled hysterectomy, he wants to take on Dignity Health’s policies so trans men and women without the resources he has as a Capitol worker don’t have to suffer through the same experience.
According to Hudson, Minton isn’t alone. Trans men and women are routinely discriminated against in the medical world—from insurance companies denying coverage for hormones to doctors turning a patient’s migraine complaints into drawn-out questions on hormone treatment. Folks often consider the surgeries and treatments trans men and women undergo to be cosmetic.
Minton’s suit is meant to protect future patients and push the gender dysphoria conversation forward.
“Systems like Dignity aren’t valuing the lives of trans people,” Hudson said. “We’re the ones who have to be the educators while we are at times physically ill or injured ourselves.”