California must allow trans woman prisoner to have surgery

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A judge has ordered the California prison system to grant gender confirmation surgery to a prisoner.

Michelle-Lael Norsworthy has won her case with the help of the Transgender Law Center, and it is the first time such a ruling has been made. Ms Norsworthy has been in prison for second-degree murder since 1987, and began transitioning in 2000.

Ms Norsworthy had argued that continuing to be denied surgery was causing her extreme psychological pain, and this needed to be rectified urgently. The California Department of Corrections argued that since she had been waiting for a long period of time already, it could not be considered. The judge disagreed, and ordered them to make the necessary steps as soon as possible.

The judge found that while she had been allowed hormone treatment, and had been recommended for surgery by her psychologist, the prison “chose to ignore the clear recommendations of her mental health provider” and “instead of following his recommendations, they removed her from his care.”

Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center said in a statement: “No one should be denied the medical care they need. There is a clear medical consensus that health care related to gender transition is necessary—and life-saving—for many people.

“This decision confirms that it’s unlawful to deny essential treatment to transgender people. With this historic decision, Michelle will now be able to get the medical care she desperately needs.”

Legal Director Ilona Turner added: “The court absolutely got it right. Michelle has been suffering for years because of the prison system’s unconstitutional policy against providing transgender inmates the medical care they need.

“This is a tremendous victory for her and for all transgender people incarcerated in California.”

In November, a prison in New York opened a wing specifically for trans prisoners.