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The transsexual prisoner wants to change from male to female at state expense.
Associated Press | File 2011
Ophelia De'lonta, in prison for bank robbery, wants sex-change surgery to convert from male to female.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
A transsexual Virginia prison inmate should find out this week whether she will be evaluated for sex-change surgery.
Judge James Turk told lawyers for Ophelia De’lonta on Monday in U.S. District Court in Roanoke he would rule promptly.
De’lonta, 53, a preoperative transsexual serving a long prison sentence for bank robbery, wants sex-change surgery to convert from male to female. The state has declined to provide the surgery.
In a Monday hearing, Alan Schoenfelt, De’lonta’s lawyer, described it as a medical necessity that she be evaluated for her suitability for the procedure because of repeated castration attempts caused by gender identity disorder. He said to deny her evaluation request violates her right against cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.
Gender identity disorder, a recognized medical diagnosis, is a strong and persistent cross-gender identification. People who have it often hate their bodies and want a body consistent with their internalized sense of who they are.
Michael Parsons, a lawyer for the prison, said the state contests the suggestion that it has not provided medically necessary care. The state has extensively addressed De’lonta’s medical needs, including with therapy for borderline personality disorder and with hormones and counseling for her gender identity disorder, he said.
De’lonta is allowed to live and dress as a woman in the all-male prison in Buckingham County where she is incarcerated.
Schoenfeld said it is long past time that De’lonta be examined for her readiness for sex-change surgery. He requested the state make her available to be examined by a gender identity specialist lined up by her attorneys at her expense. Turk said he would grant permission for that.
In addition, De’lonta’s side asked Turk to order the state to arrange for another examination by a different gender identity specialist. The state would get to choose the specialist and would pay the cost.
Turk did not say how he will rule on that request. He said it looks to him like De’lonta’s preferred doctor will become her expert witness for future phases of the case. Parsons said if De’lonta’s doctor eventually examines her, the state will get its own specialist to examine her.
What if the experts disagree? Turk asked. “We’re going down a slippery slope here,” Turk said, wondering aloud if the decision about whether she’s ready for surgery would then be left up to him.
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