My Pharmacist Humiliated Me When He Refused to Fill My Hormone Prescription

(Update 7/20/2018: Hilde appreciates that CVS took her experience seriously. She spoke with a CVS representative who offered a sincere apology on behalf the company and said that the pharmacist who mistreated Hilde acted outside of the company’s guidelines. Hilde hopes that CVS will make its nondiscrimination policies public, so that transgender and non-binary customers have some assurance the corporation will take appropriate action if similar discrimination occurs in the future.)

On a recent day in April, I left my doctor’s office elated. I was carrying my first prescriptions for hormone therapy. I was finally going to start seeing my body reflect my gender identity and the woman I’ve always known myself to be.

I went straight from my doctor to the CVS in my town, Fountain Hills, Arizona, which is a suburb of Phoenix. I handed over the three prescriptions that my doctor, who specializes in hormone therapy, had just given me.

That’s when my day took a turn. 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. 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.

When I asked for my doctor’s prescription note, the pharmacist refused to give it back, so I was not even able to take it to another pharmacy to have my prescription filled. I left the store feeling mortified.

When I got home, I called my doctor’s office to explain what happened. The office staff tried to intervene by calling the pharmacist, but he still refused to fill my prescription without explicitly explaining why. My doctor ended up having to call the prescription into the local Walgreens, where the medication was filled without question. I transferred all of my prescriptions there so that I never again have to see the pharmacist who discriminated against me.

I have contacted CVS’ corporate complaint line multiple times, but no one has addressed my concerns or offered me an apology.

Tell CVS: Transgender Customers Need Their Prescriptions, Too

My family supports me, fortunately, and helped me work through the anger and humiliation this experience caused. 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.

Today, I filed a complaint with the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy and am publicly asking CVS to take action and apologize for the way I was treated. CVS has received perfect marks for the past four years in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which is a valuable tool for assessing corporate policies and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees. But something is still not right. Measures should be in place to ensure no other customer is humiliated like I was.

Through training and written policies, the company needs to make it clear to their employees — especially their pharmacists — that transgender customers deserve respect. No healthcare worker should rely on personal beliefs to reject decisions made by doctors and their transgender patients about medically necessary care.

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Laura

I'm so sorry this happened. Sending love from West Phoenix!

Anonymous

If left alone, of if they receive skilled counseling, the majority of kids with gender dysphoria would accept the sex of their biology by the time they are young adults. This pharmacist is a hero, trying to stop one more kid from taking hormones which will render him sterile and condemn him to a probably unnecessary path as an adult transgender individual. Gender theory is a liberal socio-political ideology which is not based on science. Adults with political motives use children as pawns to promote this ideology. Gender change regret is becoming more and more common and transgender "contagion" is getting out of hand with the majority of kids who are coming to request hormone treatments not really having gender dysphoria at all. Instead, they are carried away by thinking this is cool and trendy or confused by personal trauma or emotional health issues. See the recent article in The Atlantic, for example.

Valerie A. Shee...

Hi Hilde,

You live in Arizona. Well, let's hope that Beta O'Rourke is elected. I'm glad that you took a series of actions against CVS, and didn't stop after you didn't get a response the first time.. Besides an apology, which is often hollow and just a placating action, that pharmacist's employment should be terminated. Is Arizona one of the states that has adopted one of those bogus new "religious freedom" bills, which is just an code name for making it legal to discriminate against the groups that the president and certain politicians, and the evangelicals hate?

Perhaps your local representative is LGBTQ supportive, and would take action on your behalf. Depending on how conservative or progressive your community is, and how willing you are to be public, going to the newspapers, or to your local TV station can often help. They may have something akin to the "Hall of Shame". Perhaps just telling CVS that these are your plans will be enough to meet your demands, and to have the pharmacist fired. Or, if not fired, to attend a mandatory class to help him learn about and interact with LGBTQ individuals that he does not understand. Perhaps if he was educated, AND given the chance to get to know and interact with real gay, lesbian and trans people, instead of forming his beliefs on stereotypes he reads about in bigoted papers, and from hate groups, he might have a change of heart. This would be better than just firing him. Perhaps, he would then influence people who are just like he was. Just saying…..

Anonymous

as a pharmacist i have to say something. pharmacists have the duty and responsibility to ask questions. I understand this can be frustrating. at times pharmacists have a real hard time sounding polite, especially in a busy chain environment. chain pharmacies are often understaffed and pharmacist struggle to protect patients in this environment from potential harm. im not sure what this pharmacist intended when you felt insulted, but just as you expect everyone to see your point of you, you must see his as well. He saw a male, picking up a female hormone. It set alarm bells off. He may have never seen a transgender patient. He thought the safe thing to do was to reject the prescription. Sadly, he was wrong and lost his job. You in the mean time get showered in ticker tape.

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