California transgender inmate’s lawyers seek swift sex reassignment surgery

Michelle-Lael Norsworthy

Michelle-Lael Norsworthy \

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Attorneys for a transgender prison inmate said Wednesday that she could have sex reassignment surgery as early as next month if California correctional officials quickly approve the procedure.

Michelle-Lael Norsworthy

Michelle-Lael Norsworthy

Corrections officials said they are working to schedule the surgery but need more time.

U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar last month ordered the state to pay for the surgery. Michelle-Lael Norsworthy’s lawyers said in a court filing that a qualified surgeon is available as early as June 5. Surgeons also are available in July and August to operate on the 51-year-old, whose birth name is Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy.

The state has asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay as it appeals the San Francisco-based judge’s order.

In the meantime, corrections officials said in their court filing that they are working to schedule the surgery through a federal court-appointed receiver who controls prison medical care, but they foresee complications that could delay surgery. Among other things, they said the state will need to have written contracts with the surgeon, hospital, anesthesiologist and other medical providers to arrange for payment.

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Tigar is just the second in the nation to order a state prison system to provide the surgery. The previous order in a Massachusetts case was overturned on appeal.

If Tigar’s order stands, Norsworthy would be the first inmate to receive such surgery in California.

Tigar, who ordered California officials to provide the surgery “as promptly as possible,” has scheduled a hearing for May 13 to gauge the state’s progress.

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