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The Prison Complex

Sunday, Aug 9, 2015, 8:00 am

Transgender Woman Who Took California to Court Over Cost of Surgery to be Paroled

By George Lavender

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A transgender woman who took California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to court to argue that sex affirmation surgery should be paid for by the state will now be paroled.

Michelle Lael Norsworthy had her case upheld by a federal court in April, but the surgery was delayed while the state appealed. Now, she is expected to be released before the surgery can go ahead as the Guardian reports.

She is being held at Mule Creek, a men’s state prison in Ione, near Sacramento. Prison records refer to her by her birth name of Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy, though she has lived as a woman since the 1990s.

She was diagnosed with gender identity disorder in 1999 and began taking female hormones. She began asking the corrections department for the surgery in 2012 after learning a judge for the first time had ordered Massachusetts to provide an inmate with the procedure. However, that decision was overturned on appeal in December, and the US supreme court declined to intervene.

The ninth circuit agreed to hear California’s appeal of US district judge Jon Tigar’s ruling and a hearing is scheduled for Thursday. The appellate court noted that the case raises serious legal questions about whether denying the surgery violates Norsworthy’s constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment. Continue reading… 

George Lavender is an award-winning radio and print journalist based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @GeorgeLavender.

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