News (USA)

Biden administration stands up for trans inmates & says they deserve gender-affirming care

Guard turning keys to a jail cell
Photo: Shutterstock

In a win for transgender inmates, President Joe Biden’s administration has agreed that Georgia should pay for its prisoners’ gender-affirming procedures.

A 55-year-old transgender woman inmate in Georgia, identified in court documents as “Jane Doe,” sued the state’s Department of Corrections for allegedly denying her access to gender-affirming surgery, alleging it has a “blanket ban” on the procedure. She further accused the department of denying her hormone treatment and the ability to buy women’s commissary items as well as of subjecting her to “decades of violent abuse” by male inmates and guards and also solitary confinement.

Denying her these things, she said, worsens her gender dysphoria, violates her Eighth Amendment Constitutional protections against “cruel and unusual punishment,” and also violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and federal Rehabilitation Act.

U.S. Department of Justice officials, including the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, recently filed a statement of interest in her case essentially agreeing with her argument, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“People with gender dysphoria should be able to seek the full protections of the American with Disabilities Act, just like other people with disabilities,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ’s civil rights division said in a statement. “The U.S. Constitution requires that people incarcerated in jails and prisons receive necessary medical care, treatment and services to address serious medical conditions.”

The inmate’s attorney, D. Dangaran, told the aforementioned publication that the federal government’s statement of interest “affirms the common sense principle that prison administrators cannot use blanket bans to override the judgments of medical providers when it comes to individual patient care.”

The Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also filed a brief in the case. Their brief mentioned “widespread failings in Georgia prisons,” adding, “Individuals in Georgia’s custody continue to suffer extensive abuse and maltreatment. Jane Doe’s experience is a grievous case in point.”

Doe has identified as female since early childhood and began living as a woman around 1988. She was diagnosed with gender dysphoria by multiple medical professionals at the facilities in which she has been incarcerated since 1993.

She began receiving hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in 2015 but her lawsuit says corrections officers confiscated clothing that she tailored to appear more feminine and shaved her head bald as her hair began to grow out. She attempted suicide in 2017 and 2019. Her worsening gender dysphoria has caused her to continue experiencing suicidal ideation and to engage in serious self-harm. She has remained in solitary confinement, and in July 2022 she attempted self-castration.

Nearly 5,000 transgender people are incarcerated in state prisons, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. Most are people of color, most are denied routine healthcare in prison, and an estimated 35% reported harassment by other inmates and prison staff, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at The Trans Lifeline (1-877-565-8860) is staffed by trans people and will not contact law enforcement. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgement-free place to talk for youth via chat, text (678-678), or phone (1-866-488-7386). Help is available at all three resources in English and Spanish.

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