Transgender Prisoner Files Lawsuit After Hormone Therapy Denied

George Lavender

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A transgender prisoner in Ohio, is suing the state’s Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to have her hormone therapy continued. Whitney Lee says she has suffered from depression since her hormones were abruptly discontinued two years ago. According to the Associated Press, Lee had received continuous hormone therapy from 1999 until February 2012 when a prison psychiatrist decided she did not meet the criteria for gender dysphoria.”

The state resumed the treatments last month after a judge temporarily ordered the state to provide them and scheduled a hearing for Thursday in Columbus.

A prison psychiatrist has determined that Lee lacks the criteria for gender identity disorder, also known as gender dysphoria, and that the therapy can’t be justified, according to the department.

Lee, 36, is housed with men at Mansfield Correctional Institution, where she is serving a three-year sentence on forgery and theft charges out of Hamilton County.

Lee had previously received the treatments at home, in federal prison and in the Hamilton County Justice Center, according to a request for an emergency order filed by the Cincinnati-based Ohio Justice & Policy Center. That included estrogen treatment approved by prison authorities while Lee was imprisoned in 2009 and 2010, the request said.

Lee has been living as a woman since age 18, the center’s complaint said.

Without the treatments, Lee lost breast tissue, her voice deepened, her skin became coarser and she began growing facial hair, among other symptoms, the request said. She also has grown irritable and angry and was placed on suicide watch, according to the request.

Deprivation of hormone treatment wreaks havoc on Ms. Lee’s physical and mental health and puts her life in danger,” it said.

The prisons department has argued that Lee didn’t exhaust the prison grievance procedures and that the case should be dismissed.

The agency cited other cases, including that of a Texas inmate, in which courts have upheld prisons’ decisions not to administer the treatment.

The state said that even if the state’s medical diagnosis was called into question, it would be at most an issue of medical malpractice, not a violation of constitutional rights. Continue reading…

In 2012 a federal appeals court ruled that transgender prisoners should have access to transition related care during their incarceration. The court ruled that transition related treatment was medically necessary, and that denying a prisoner treatment was a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

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