Before I begin this post I want to make it clear that I can recognize and appreciate the sensitive nature of the word discrimination and in no way do I equate my circumstances with anyone dealing with this on a day to day. I acknowledge my privilege of being an able bodied, white, straight, middle class female who is not part of any visible minority. I can also understand the timing of this post in light of recent world events and again, do not equate my situation to the severity of a larger discriminated population. But I think it’s important to talk about this sort of incident and reflect on it, learn from it, and start a greater dialogue. So please, bare with me, with an open mind, and stay tuned for Part 2 of this post.
Part of having an ostomy means always being prepared for leaks or irritation. Although I am equipped with proper medical supplies on my stoma, it’s necessary for me to carry a back up supply just in case. Aside from avoiding a very embarrassing scenario where a leak seeps past my skin barrier and heaven forbid onto my clothing (which has happened), if there is even the slightest bit of stool on my skin, it causes severe irritation and essentially eats away at it. The acidity of my stool is stronger of anyone else since it has travelled less way from my stomach contents, and does not take long to burn.
Anyways, so in an effort to always stay prepared, I carry a small amount of supplies with me, in a pouch, that I can zip up and carry in my purse. Before even leaving for Nashville, I told my sister and friends, I would need to carry a larger purse than just a clutch, because of my supplies. Remembering our last trip in 2012, I knew that once we left the hotel and went downtown, we would likely be down there for several hours, until after the concerts and potentially longer. So if I needed to change my appliance I might have to do it in a restaurant or the stadium. There was no problem considering I was with 8 girls and there is no shortage of purses in any of our houses, and I found 2 that would serve my needs. For the first two nights I was fine, in and out of the stadium just like anyone else.
And then there was the third night. I decided to switch purses for no particular reason and I guess the one I used was slightly bigger. Not huge, but by their security standards, too big. Nissan Stadium has a security barrier everyone must go through before entering with a metal detector and guards with wands and gloves. As I walked into Gate 7 with 7 other girls I was told “Sorry Ma’am you can’t bring this purse in, it’s too big.” I responded by asking what I should do with my purse and they suggested going to put it in a locker they have set up beside their parking lot…. Um no. I began arguing with them and told them that’s not an option, so they sent me to a different gate to talk to someone else. Same thing.
At this point I was left with only 1 of the girls while everyone else had gone to their seats. It finally resonates with her that we should tell them it’s for medical reasons. This is something that I hadn’t even thought about. I would have never thought I needed to explain that. So they told me to speak to someone in a blue shirt if that’s the case and pointed us towards the right person. By now I am humiliated as everyone waiting in security lines are staring at this scene that’s been created. This gentleman brings us BACK to Gate 7 because if I have medical supplies Gate 7 is where I am allowed to enter….Gate 7 where I started.
I was finally given the go-ahead but was so upset that I’ve been given such a run around. It didn’t even OCCUR to me that my purse would be too big. I would have NEVER thought that would be something I would have to explain. I’ve made it through airport security and given less of a hard time. My purse wasn’t even that big and now I had to wear a wristband tagged as medical on my purse. And for the record, THEY DIDN’T EVEN LOOK IN IT.
A quick phone call home reminded me that yes, it feels like I’ve been knocked down, but that’s the fire that fuels the drive. That’s the good stuff for the blog. That’s the journey and that’s what I’ve been handed to me because I can handle it.
As I left the stadium after the concert, I decided that I was going to make a point and wear the same purse tomorrow. In an effort to ensure I am not given such a run around, I spoke to security on my way out and asked what I need to do tomorrow. They told me medical bags are allowed only through gates 1 and 7 and to just let them know it’s medical. Okay.
By the second night I was a little bit more prepared (mentally, emotionally) and aware of which gate to go through. The same thing began happening at Gate 7 as they tell me my purse is too big. I immediately tell them it’s for medical reasons. “IT’S MEDICAL” the one girl yelled. “MEDICAL? COME THROUGH HERE. SHE HAS A MEDICAL BAG!” The next guy yelled. “MEDICAL OVER HERE!” The next guy called out. As someone else approaches the first guy yelled to make it clear, “SHE HAS A MEDICAL BAG!” Then a second lady says, “IT’S THE SAME GIRL FROM LAST NIGHT!” Finally my sister says, “Can we please just yell a little louder that she has a medical bag. I don’t think everyone has heard you.” “Sorry Ma’am,” The lady says as she begins to put the wristband on my purse. Again, I have to wear a big bright green wristband tagged to my purse so everyone can identify it as medical.
So here is where my discrimination question comes into play. First of all, how would I have ever known certain purses wouldn’t be allowed? I did some research and I found under their FAQ page the Nissan Stadium Bag Policy. Would I have ever thought to look there before going? No. But I guess that’s my first mistake. Second of all it does say, “Exceptions will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection at a gate designated for this purpose.” Yet it does not distinguish where the designated gates are. So again, how would I have ever known before getting separated from my entire group that I needed to go somewhere else?
Next, why are only certain gates permitted to inspect medical bags? Can someone explain why I should be subject to a different entrance than everyone else? There was no one searching my bag anyways, just a little old lady tagging me with the neon wristband. NO ONE looked in the ostomy bag. NO ONE asked that the medical supplies were. NO ONE questioned it. Just tagged me. Just centered me out and made my circumstances identifiable to not only their security guards but also the entire lines waiting at Gates 7 and 8. Thank you for that.
But even if I was subject to inspection, which I was prepared to do, why would one gate be more qualified to understand than any other? Every gate should be prepared for someone with medical circumstances. The Canadian Human Rights Acts lists discriminatory practices as “Providing someone goods, services, facilities or accommodation in a way that treats them adversely and differently.”……But maybe this is different in America.
In my continued research I was taken to NFL.com/AllClear for more information about the policy in their FAQ page (again, why I would have ever known to check here is beyond me.) But they say:
“The committee strongly believed that it made sense to adjust our policy to enhance public safety and make stadium access more efficient by limiting the size and style of bags carried into the stadium”
“How does this make it more convenient for fans?
This will enable us to move fans through our security check points much faster” –
“If I have certain items that I need to bring into the stadium for medical reasons and they won’t fit in the clear bag, what do I do?
There will be a separate entrance to allow screening of these bags and medically necessary items.”
Separate entrances were not distinguishable and there was no extra screening. Again, no one checked my bag, so safety was not taken into extra consideration there, just made it slower, and extremely less efficient for me, and my group, to enter the stadium.
Like I said, I can appreciate the difference between heightened security in The States compared to Canada, and especially in light of recent events, understand the necessary measures. However for someone with a minor difference, there was no added accommodation, consideration or compassion taken and I in the end was treated differently, inadequately and poorly. It has opened my eyes in the slightest way to the life so many people live and it pains me. In my fit of rage I vowed to absolutely sewer Nissan Stadium with this incident in any way I could via social media, word of mouth, contacting management etc. However my blip is small. In fact all this did was give me a reality check and that’s where part 2 comes into play…