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Virginia

Judge grants transgender inmate’s request for sex change surgery evaluation

Saturday, August 31, 2013

ROANOKE, Va. — A transgender Virginia prison inmate will soon be evaluated by a gender specialist as part of her lifelong quest for sex-change surgery.

U.S. District Court Judge James C. Turk in Roanoke says officials must grant Ophelia De’Lonta’s request to be examined as part of her lawsuit seeking a state-paid sex-change operation.

Ophelia De’Lonta

Turk granted the request earlier this week for the exam at De’Lonta’s expense, saying it was for valid legal discovery to support her ongoing suit, reported the Roanoke Times.

Turk said the court “sees no harm to defendants from allowing this modest request,” noting that state prison officials oppose the exam but did not raise any safety concern or practical objection.

But the judge did not rule on De’Lonta’s preliminary injunction request that the state pay for an official medical evaluation for her suitability for the procedure. Turk noted that lawyers for the state indicated that if the court allowed De’Lonta’s self-paid evaluation, that the state would very likely have her evaluated by a physician of its choosing as well. He asked for a report of its findings within two months.

De’Lonta has been in prison for 30 years serving a 73-year sentence for bank robbery.

She has been diagnosed with a severe form of a rare, medically recognized illness known as gender identity disorder. Her desire for a sex-reassignment surgery has prompted her several times to attempt to castrate herself.

Her attorneys have argued the evaluation is medically necessary because of the repeated castration attempts.

De’Lonta’s suit claims that denying her sex-assignment surgery is a violation of her Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.

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De’Lonta’s attorneys have said the surgery could be done at a cost to the state of about $20,000.

Similar lawsuits have failed in a handful of other states. Lawmakers in some states have tried to ban the use of taxpayer money for the operations.

A lawyer for the prison said at a Monday hearing that the state contests the suggestion that it has not provided medically necessary care. The state claims it has extensively addressed De’Lonta’s medical needs, including providing her with psychological counseling and hormone treatments and she has been allowed to dress as a woman in a men’s prison.

Turk had previously dismissed De’Lonta’s self-filed lawsuit in 2011 after he concluded the Virginia Department of Corrections was adequately treating De’Lonta’s gender identity disorder.

But a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in January sent her case back to the lower court, concluding that her constitutional claim should be heard.

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51 more reader comments:

  1. Really? Tax payer money for this? I understand she apparently really needs it, but maybe she should have thought of that before robbing a bank??? Its PRISON! They should cover the basic needs and thats IT!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:26pm
  2. the tax payer dollars should not have to pay for an inmates reassignment surgery

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:27pm
  3. so judgemental. Pray God, you two r never needing help.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:31pm
  4. @Mark Comer when people have to go to jail or prison for medical help that is a shame. I am sorry to say prison isn´t supposed to be a spa where you are given taxpayer subsidized healthcare and food. There are plenty of hard working people who can´t afford even these basic needs. Yet, trying to push gender reassignment surgery on the taxpayer is ridiculous. It is prison! It is not supposed to be Club Med. Unless gender reassignment surgery is offered across the board free to those who want it I am sorry prisoners shouldn´t receive it.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:36pm
  5. We pay for pregnancies, abortions, vasectomies, hysterectomies, etc etc. How´s this any different?

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:36pm
  6. I´m all for this, but it shouldn´t be payed for by the people. Everybody else has to pay for the reassignment surgery themselves, right? Its $20,000!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:38pm
  7. Got to love my stupid state! They´ll pay for her surgery while she´s in prison but meanwhile, my fiancee and I are denied food stamps and can´t feed our daughter even though I´m disabled because all of our very little income goes to rent, bills and gas to get to school/work and they refuse to account for the money we spend in gas (which leaves us no extra for food, despite what they say) because the state and its system is screwed beyond belief!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:39pm
  8. @Thomas Alex depending on where you live not everyone pays for abortions. I tried finding the middle ground on this topic yet I don´t see one. I know trans people who quite honestly didn´t believe prisoners should be given this type of surgery. Due to the very fact they are prisoners and this is a prison system.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:40pm
  9. C´mon now!!!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:43pm
  10. If people think that this is going to make her life easier in prison, you have a serious misconception of prison. She´s in for some serious problems than a transgender person out of prison will rarely have to deal with no matter how hard it gets.

    I´m not arguing one way or the other. I´m just saying that prison isn´t a spa no matter how you look at it.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:49pm
  11. Pay for it yourself, dumb bitch.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:50pm
  12. If insurance companies for law abiding citizens won´t pay for gender reassignment surgery for law abiding citizens (despite the AMA´s recommendation) then the taxpayers should not have to pay for an inmates surgery. I understand and sympathize with her plight as a human being but if my sister who is transgender and a law abiding citizen can´t get her surgery due to cost then why should this person?

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:53pm
  13. I´m not agreeing or disagreeing with this. But to everyone saying “prison isn´t a spa”, do you really think gender reassignment surgery is just a big holiday? It isn´t. It´s painful and the recovery is long and difficult, both physically and emotionally. I don´t think anyone would do this to have an “easier” time in prison or in life. Get a damn grip.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:23pm
  14. I don´t think that my hard earned money that´s taken away from me by the government should be used for this reason… If she wants a gender reassignment she should have thought of that before she committed the crime that landed her in prison…. It´s ridiculous how people that have health insurance have to fight for certain procedures and this woman just gets us to pay for her whole life… I mean really they don´t pay for anything, they broke the law but yet they get 3 meals a day, A warm dry place to sleep and activities such as basketball, tv, and some even get computer access… Really U.S government what r u thinking??!! Commit a crime live and for free!!! Smh

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:36pm
  15. @Daniel English. Actually, Federal Taxes do pay for abortions, like they should. All an abortion is, is aborting a fetus. Why shouldn´t our tax dollars cover that?

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:43pm
  16. disagree

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 8:58pm
  17. I hope she gets her surgery. Serving 73 years for bank robbery seems harsh, essentially life in prison.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 9:00pm
  18. i agree Thomas.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 9:00pm
  19. I´m a hermaphrodite and have thought of gettin´ an actual gender replacement..but with her, I really don´t think it´s right..she´s in there for a reason and the government would be payin´ for her shit..I´ve never been to jail, but can´t afford it..so does this mean that I should fuck up and go to prison just so I can get that done? No. That´d be silly..but that´s also another message this is sendin´..prisoners should be gettin´ treated like nursin´ home folks, and nursin´ home folks should be gettin´ treated like prisoners..considerin´ they get a luxury life and old folks don´t. This is just redic.

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 9:02pm
  20. its prison .

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 9:04pm
  21. Jay what´s with dropping all your “g”s?

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 9:32pm
  22. ok so if the operation is granted and it does happen, what prison does he/she go to???????????????

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 10:39pm
  23. She has been diagnosed with a severe form of a rare, medically recognized illness known as gender identity disorder. Her desire for a sex-reassignment surgery has prompted her several times to attempt to castrate herself

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 11:18pm
  24. ummm yeah shes trans don´t blow it out of proportiion

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 11:18pm
  25. Alzea, you call her she. Even though I´m transgender, I do not agree with this at all. If we´re putting enough money into a prison to allow someone to get that kind of surgery, there´s a huge issue. Why isn´t that money going towards public education so that fewer people commit crimes?!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 11:29pm
  26. I support her and her decisions, but perhaps she could raise the money some other way, or ask for donations from family and friends. Some inmates can make money. That´s what she should do. And, since everything ELSE of hers is paid for, she can save WAY faster! “xD

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 11:30pm
  27. Hey, Doug Stanhope – maybe this transgendered inmate can be the next cause that Atheists Who Do Stuff About Stuff can get after? We could raise $20,000 for this gal´s sex-change in six hours. She keeps trying to cut her nuts off, fer Chrissakes!!!!

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 11:42pm
  28. Interesting read

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 11:51pm
  29. this person is in jail… why are tax payers forced to pay for this, let him pay for it himself?

    Posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 11:59pm
  30. Gerald, show some compassion…and just how can this person pay for it? How about no free healthcare for politicians….they are the real welfare queens.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 12:23am
  31. Still…this is a criminal. We foot the bill for their upkeep and personal care. Why should we be stuck with another bill?

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 12:29am
  32. Wow, I thought she was already physically a woman.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 12:52am
  33. @Thomas Alex: Show me where in the federal tax code that taxpayers fund abortions? You know if you are going to make a bold claim have some evidence to back it up. Because if taxpayers were actually funding abortions liberals and conservatives would not be fighting over it regarding Obamacare. Secondly I don´t see what your point was trying to tie abortion into this topic. Give me your evidence and I may change my opinion. If you have no evidence then don´t make asinine generalizations.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 1:29am
  34. In Virginia?

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 1:51am
  35. I still don´t see why we as tax payers have to pay for criminals surgery´s especially ones like this. I get that she´s trans. But once she´s out she can raise the money her own damn self. That judge should not have granted her that operation. That´s a free ride for her and a kick in the teeth for us.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 4:53am
  36. I think it Transgender surgery was seen as something NEEDED and not a cosmetic thing, we might not have this problem. The surgeries are expensive, and they get even more expensive when your insurance doesn´t cover it. I mean, come on, cosmetic boob jobs cost less than mastectomy for a transgender patient. It´s nonsense.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 5:34am
  37. good news for Bradley Manning…..

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 6:27am
  38. Judging by the comments I thought for a minute that I accidentily clicked on a link posted by a far right conservative. I had to scroll up again to make sure it was indeed a LGBT group with people who are supposed to support LGBT´s. But all I see is people whining about how they don´t want to pay for someone elses needs and happines. Is it really a discussion if a sexchange operation is a need or a luxury?
    I´m Dutch and over here things like this are either payed by your insurance company and if it isn´t, there is this special fund where every single person who earns a living (even if you´re on welfare) pays taxes for so that things like people with special needs get the help they need and abortions are being done by specialists so it´s safe.
    Think of it what you want and trust me there is a lotwrong with our system but it get things done.
    I´m sorry if your insurance company is shit or that you are on foodstanps, I truly am. But don´t use that as an argument against someone who has just as much right to healthcare as you have, prison or not.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 7:41am
  39. Esther, I am a gay male and I understand your position but here things operate a little differently. Insurance typically does not pay for gender reassignment surgeries. I have friends who are trams that struggle to pay for this themselves. Our taxes we pay are to create a decent infrastructure for our roads, education for the youth and adults attending college, and for multiple other things. If our tax dollars starts to go towards gender reassignment surgeries at $20000 a pop, that increases the amounts that hard working people pay when this person went to jail to steal money. It is not a statement that we do not support her. I would not pay for someone else´s surgery if they asked me to and they were not in jail. I would not want my tax dollars paying for anyone´s either. I don´t get special treatment for my medical bills. We already pay for her lodging, food, and healthcare. That is also what I get with my job but I lay for it. Not someone else. Therefore, I disagree and believe we should not have to pay for her surgery!

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 8:52am
  40. Pay* not lay*

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 8:54am
  41. No… she broke the law… She should have to pay for her own surgery. I´d be hard pressed to agree to this if she wasn´t in jail.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 9:49am
  42. I get what your saying Chip and thank you for your polite response and information about how your system works. I think you´re right when you say that our systems work in very different ways and believe me when I say that I´m not here to claim “ours is better” because like I said, there is a lot wrong on this side of the pond too.
    I will say that our tax goes to all of the things you listed above aswell, including the care for prisoners. Also all insurance companies are obligated by law to pay for sexchange operations.
    And I believe that it should be that way in your country as well and not only when your in prison. I´m sorry that your friends have to struggle so much for something that imo should be a basic (healthcare) right. I come from a country with lots of socialist influences. To me when it comes to healthcare, thats not such a bad thing. I don´t mind paying for others, because they do the same for me…

    I think what struck me most about this thread is the harsh comments. As much as we can agree to disagree, lets do it in a respectful way

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 9:57am
  43. Good!

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 10:39am
  44. I don´t think it´s fair for inmates to have their reassignment surgeries done on the tax payer dollar, when law abiding citizens cannot afford to get their surgeries and can´t even get the help they request to have it done.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 1:27pm
  45. This is bullshit – those fools get better medical care in jail/prison then I do…I´m going to have to go to prison just to get my teeth fixed !

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 2:42pm
  46. for the record- I am all for transgenders being able to have the SRS if they choose- but this is a prison inmate who is NOT getting out in her natural lifetime. The STATE- ie taxpayers will have to pay for this- Most transgendered people have to pay out of their own pockets… blatantly unfair.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 3:09pm
  47. The American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association both agree that transition is medically-necessary for treatment of gender dysphoria (It´s not gender identity disorder as the article says. That is an outdated, offensive definition with highly-negative connotations that was stripped from the DSM-V)

    If they do not provide transgender healthcare such as assignment surgery, then they are not living up to their Constitutional expectations of avoiding cruel and unusual punishment. Transgender women should also not be in men´s prison where they could basically continually fear rape far more than male inmates.

    Assignment surgery shouldn´t be thought of as a luxury, are you people daft? Have some respect for what is a very difficult condition to live with. It´s not like the surgery is some Ferrari of surgeries that is going to noticeably affect your taxes. You all sound like you learned about trans issues from Fox News or something.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 4:39pm
  48. “I´m miserable and poor, so they should be miserable, too!” Is what you´re all saying. And it´s DISGUSTING. She is IN PRISON and can´t work to earn her surgery. You all sound like terrible whiny children and have no considering for the SUFFERING she will be forced to endure the rest of her life because the state of her body continually inflicts suffering on her mind. But no, let´s just TORTURE our prison inmates. Would that be a better use of your precious fucking tax dollars, people?

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 4:43pm
  49. yes but I know of several that wish they could afford this surgery an can not an they work not in prison.. tax payers should not pay this or should make it a heck of a bunch eaiser for the ones that do need an want this outside of those prison gates.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 5:48pm
  50. funny some people commit crimes just to get medical treatment. This is something that should be covered under health plans.

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 6:11pm
  51. everyone should be supported equally, regardless of if they´re in prison, free as a bird, or live on the moon! xx

    Posted on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 8:36pm