A 78-year-old woman is suing a Jonesport assisted living facility for allegedly denying her a room because she is transgender.
The woman said Sunrise Assisted Living in Jonesport discriminated against her on the basis of gender identity, transgender status and sex in violation of the Maine Human Rights Act after an administrator allegedly said she wouldn’t admit her after finding out she was transgender. She filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission on Thursday in which she is referred to as Jane Doe.
“I just wanted to be treated like a human being,” the woman said. “I don’t want anybody else to be turned away for care they need because they are transgender. I want people to understand we are people living our lives as best we can and they can’t do that to somebody.”
The complaint is the first of its kind filed in the U.S. by an older trangender person against a long-term care facility, said GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, the group that filed the complaint on behalf of the woman on Thursday.
The woman was receiving treatment at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport after a medical emergency in the spring, when hospital staff determined she needed to be placed in an assisted living facility, the filing said.
She had been staying at another assisted living facility at the time she was admitted to the hospital, but hospital staff determined she could not safely return due to the trauma she experienced while there. The name and location of that facility is not named in the complaint.
A hospital social worker called Sunrise Assisted Living in Jonesport in April to ask if any rooms were available. An administrator initially said the facility had available rooms.
However, shortly after finding out the woman seeking admission was transgender, the administrator said she wouldn’t accept Doe because she feared she would want to reside in a room with a female roommate, the filing said.
This was despite common practice for women in the facility to be placed in semi-private rooms with other women, according to the complaint.
Rhonda Chambers, administrator of Adult Family Care Homes of Maine, the Jonesport facility’s parent company, declined to comment on Thursday.
The woman was ultimately placed in a different assisted living facility in July.