Lawsuit alleges detained transgender teen being treated as boy



HARTFORD, Conn. — A 16-year-old transgender girl being held at a boys’ detention center alleged that staff members are repeatedly referring to her by her male birth name and male pronouns, forcing her to wear boys’ uniforms and banning her from wearing her wig and makeup.

The new accusations come in an amended lawsuit filed in federal court Monday. The girl, known only in court documents as Jane Doe, is suing state child welfare and prison officials, alleging they have violated her constitutional rights and federal laws by detaining her in traumatizing solitary confinement for most of this year.

Civil liberties and children’s rights advocates have been highly critical of her confinement, especially when she was held at an adult women’s prison without any criminal charges earlier this year after state Department of Children and Families officials deemed her too violent for other facilities.

A Department of Children and Families spokesman referred questions Tuesday to the state attorney general’s office, which declined to comment citing pending litigation. The department runs the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown, where the girl is detained. The attorney general’s office has denied the girl’s allegations in court documents.

One of the girl’s lawyers, Aaron Romano, criticized the youth agency for what he called inconsistent treatment. He said that while she has been receiving hormone therapy under the agency’s care, she’s being treated like a boy at the detention center.

“Unfortunately there’s been this schizophrenic approach by DCF,” Romano said.

The amended lawsuit said “it is psychologically damaging and harmful for a transgender female to be placed in a male facility and to be unable to express herself as female.”

Detention center staff also offered to put the girl with the general male population, but she fears being assaulted, harassed and humiliated, the lawsuit said.

Her lawyers say she has been traumatized by a history of sexual and physical abuse and neglect. The Department of Children and Families has been involved with her since she was 5, and she’s in the agency’s custody because of child protection and juvenile delinquency proceedings.

The department first placed her at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in January, after officials say she assaulted a staff member at a private treatment program.

She was transferred to the state adult women’s prison in Niantic in April, despite having no pending criminal charges, after child welfare officials told a state judge she was too violent for other facilities. Amid criticism by advocates, she was transferred in June to a locked treatment center for girls in Middletown, where officials say she got into a fight with other girls and a staff member. She was then returned to the training school.

The girl’s lawyers, state Child Advocate Sarah Eagan and the state chapter of the ACLU have been calling on officials to move her to a more appropriate setting with mental health counseling.

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