Monday, July 23, 2018

Refusing to fill a prescription is symptomatic of a larger problem for LGBT people

Hilde Hall
A pharmacist denied Hilde Hall the hormones that she was prescribed. From where did he derive such power over others?
Hilde Hall, a transgender woman, was elated when her doctor prescribed hormones for the first time last April. Ms. Hall went to her local CVS in Fountain Hills, AZ (a suburb of Phoenix) where she was refused service and humiliated by the pharmacist.

Loudly, and in front of other customers, the pharmacist started to interrogate Hall asking her why she was being prescribed the hormones. The pharmacist refused to fill the prescription and also refused to provide a reason. When Hall asked the pharmacist to return the prescription he refused. Dejected and embarrassed, Ms. Hall went home. Her doctor's office called a nearby Walgreens and the prescription was filled without incident — as it should be.

Everytime an LGBT person is refused service it damages our psyche. It reminds us that other people have the right (or the perceived right) to control part of our lives.

Refusing service is, in my opinion, a way to express disapproval. Some religious conservatives are consumed by the notion that LGBT people seek, or require, their approval. Therefore, every transaction provides an opportunity to make their approval a requirement.

They don't bake cakes, sell flowers, issue marriage licenses or dispense medication in order to withhold their consent and to demonstrate their power over others. Religion is the source for disapproval but merely pretext for expressing their opprobrium through the refusal of service. It is a nuance that was never properly explored in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado. Withholding consent is a means of shaming people. Shame is used by religion to get people to follow the rules and being L,G,B or T is not in the religious rulebook.

Arizona allows a pharmacist to decline to fill a prescription if it conflicts with their religion. The state law is aimed at things like the “morning-after” pill. It is also presumably premised on pharmacists being human beings realizing that they are an integral part of the healthcare system. In the case of Ms. Hall, the pharmacist could have quitely explained his religious objection, returned the prescription and direct Ms. Hall to Walgreens but as I said this was all about the notion that his blessing is required. Apparently he sought, and expected, the support of other customers within the range of hearing his discourse. He is no longer with CVS and the company apologized.

What is this really all about and why are “they” making such a fuss over it? And why does it empower individuals to impose their beliefs on others? It is no different from some nutty Hasid walking around a park at noon in order to yell at everyone he sees eating a ham sandwich. We do not have mutaween (Islamic religious police) in this country. Our ethos is generally described as live and let live.

The Trump administration has attempted to ban transgender people from serving in the military. It also withdrew Obama era guidance regarding accommodating transgender and gender nonconforming students. This is the result of the influence of ultra-conservative evangelical Christians because they form the core of Trump's political support; or whatever is left of it. Trump has no personal beliefs beyond greed. He simply wants to retain the support of his base.

It's an odd form of hypocrisy given that Trump is clearly amoral and a pathological liar. The religious set can give Trump their support which includes campaigning for him and giving him money. Yet those same people are incapable of accepting LGBT people.

Most Catholics are supportive and accepting of transgender people. Ryan T. Anderson is not. Anderson accepts (perhaps grudgingly) the reality of gender dysphoria. That should mean acceptance of the separate construct of gender. Research I often pay for. Anderson's book? Not a chance. However, based upon the portions of the book that have appeared in numerous articles, Anderson attempts to make a case against gender affirmation. It is a philosophical objection supported by a few doctors who are defenders of the faith.

My faith is in science. Science is represented by articles published to respected academic journals that subject articles to rigorous peer review. Science is not always perfect but it is based on evidence making it the best guidance that we have.

According to the science there is no way that someone can be talked out of being gender dysphoric. Nor is there a pill or combination of pills that cure the condition. Simply stated there is no intervention known to medical science that cures gender dysphoria. The only thing that mitigates the symptoms is gender affirmation. That affirmation reduces anxiety and depression to near normal which reduces the potential for self-harm.

Trans people still have to cope with the unease that is attributable to the Meyer Minority Stress model. Ms. Hall is probably still living with that idiotic rejection by that idiotic pharmacist.

I also have to wonder why people are defined by their sexuality. LGBT people have so much more to offer. Jennifer Finney Boylan comes to mind. She is an exceptionally learned individual and educator (Barnard College), a novelist, a non-fiction author and an opinionator for the New York Times. She is also a mother of two. None of that seems to matter to the religious right. Ms. Boyle is a transgender woman who must be shamed.

Part of this relates to marriage equality. The state might sanction same-sex marriage but conservative Christians were still able to shame and humiliate gay people by refusing service. They also shifted some of their attention to the small percentage of the population that is transgender (probably between 0.3% to 0.5%). Based on the amount of shame directed at them you would think that they are five times their actual number.

The religious right have a great deal of anger and resentment as they continue to lose what they conceive is a culture war. Increasingly legal protections for sexual orientation and gender identity drive these people insane. Marriage equality thrusted already irrational people over the edge of reason. Transgender people are the last straw for conservative Christians.

That brings me back to the pharmacist. I can almost accept the proposition that dispensing the morning-after pill makes him complicit in the murder of a human life. Almost. However, where does he get off imposing his religious judgment on a transgender woman? What standing does he have? No one is forcing him, or anyone else, to take the hormones.

My hypothesis is that he is empowered by his religious views. He imposes his views on the customer in order to demonstrate the power to refuse service in order to dispense shame instead of medications. He becomes a proxy for the will of his god. For a true believer that is enormous power.

The irony is that it is the pharmacist who is deserving of shame. He was disrespectful, impolite and uncivil. For me, he is also a part of a business. I only wish that I could fire him, wherever he is in order to express my (or our) disapproval of his imbecilic bigotry.

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