Chantelle Saunders, who is transitioning from male to female, said she was left ‘very, very upset’ by the way she was treated by staff
A hospital has been forced to apologise to a transgender woman who visited a ward dressed as Mrs Claus at Christmas after the nurse mistook her for a man and exclaimed ‘erggh’ when corrected.
Chantelle Saunders, who is transitioning from male to female, said she was left ‘very, very upset’ by the way she was treated by staff at Royal Devon and Exeter hospital.
The 34-year-old claims a nurse replied ‘Er…it’s a man’ when she wished her ‘Happy Christmas’ while wearing an Ann Summers Mrs Claus outfit.
Chantelle, from Exeter, visited the hospital on Christmas Eve last year in full make-up, wig and costume to spread some festive cheer.
But she said she was disgusted after the nurse believed she was a man and then replied ‘erggh’ when she informed her she was a transgender woman.
In a letter the hospital told Chantelle that the nurse thought she was male because ‘you had a full beard and were dressed in male attire’.
But they have now apologised and said they are keen to speak to Chantelle to see if they can ‘explore how we can resolve any remaining issues she has’.
Chantelle said she has never had a beard, even before she began her three year transition, and blasted the nurse’s actions.
She said: ‘I was very, very upset. I’m a transgender woman – transitioning from male to female. I went to visit my friend in hospital on Christmas Eve on one of the RD&E ward.
‘She was in having an operation and there was a nurse in the cubicle. I said ‘Happy Christmas’ and the nurse replied ‘Er…it’s a man’.
‘I said ‘No I’m a transgender woman’ and she said ‘errgh’.’
The incident happened on Christmas Eve at Royal Devon and Exeter hospital (seen in a file photo)
Chantelle said she complained to the NHS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) and received a comment back from the assistant head of nursing apologising for saying ‘happy Christmas, sir’.
‘But I appealed and made another complaint about that because they didn’t speak to me or speak to my two witnesses.
‘Now I have had a letter back from the deputy chief executive/chief nurse which basically says that the nurse involved has no recollection of making the comment – but again they never spoke to my two witnesses.’
She then read out part of the letter, which said that staff were trained to enquire about how people wished to be addressed.
Chantelle continued: ‘The bit of the letter that has really upset me is this bit, it says, ‘However when a person is visited we are advised to address the person as they are seen. In your case I understand you had a full beard and were dressed in male attire’.’
Chantelle said if the hospital had contacted her witnesses they would all testify that she was dressed as a woman, as she has for the last three years since she began transitioning and taking female hormones.
The 34-year-old claims a nurse replied ‘Er…it’s a man’ when she wished her ‘Happy Christmas’ while wearing an Ann Summers Mrs Claus outfit
She said: ‘I am always dressed as a woman. I had full make-up. I had my hair on. I am on female hormones and do not have a beard.
‘Even my passport shows that I am female. This second letter is even worse than the first.
‘Life is difficult enough when you are transitioning. I have had hate crimes committed against me.
‘But I am very surprised that this is how I have been treated. They are usually very good and treat me properly. But this is just ridiculous.’
Friend Chloe Palmer, 20, said: ‘I was with Chantelle. She had got a Mrs Claus outfit from Ann Summers and she had stockings and make-up and her hair done.
‘I was upset because in that industry they should be used to having different kinds of people going in and out without passing judgement. I was a bit shocked.’
In a statement from the hospital, Chief Nurse Em Wilkinson-Brice said: ‘We are always sorry to hear when a patient or visitor is unhappy with their experience at the RD&E.
‘In this case we have investigated the complaint and apologised for any offence caused.
‘We are keen to speak with Ms Saunders to explore how we can resolve any remaining issues she has.
‘All staff at the RD&E undergo equality and diversity training as standard, reflecting the importance we place on the value of inclusion and collaboration.’