The Fourth-Circuit court of appeals has ruled in favor of transgender inmate Ophelia De’lonta saying the state of Virginia violated her constitutional rights by not evaluating her for sex reassignment surgery.
De’lonta reportedly suffers from Gender Identity Disorder, (GID) a condition that makes a person feel such extreme discomfort in physiological sex that is causes emotional and physical distress. De’lonta had, in recent months, gone as far as trying to castrate herself because of her GID. The Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) had refused to asses her for this specific condition.
Northern Virginia lawyer Victor Glasberg represents De’lonta. He said the ruleing today was not a surprise, though he said it was an important step for people who suffer from GID. “GID patients and particularly GID inmates have historically received a very harsh reception from the courts,” said Glasberg. “Any favorable ruling is an occasion for optimism.”
Glasberg could not say if the ruling today meant a guaranteed gender reassignment surgery for De’lonta, but the wheels are in motion to get her assessed for the condition. “If it(reassignment surgery) is what is recommended then we would seek it. But right now, its a question of getting the proper assessment done.”
In a statement from ACLU Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg, De’onta’s case was painted as a medical issue that the courts were ignoring. “The Court of Appeals recognized that prison officials may not arbitrarily refuse to consider sex reassignment surgery… This is an important step forward for transgender inmates.”
De’lonta has received hormone treatments from the VDOC since a 2004 court settlement. Guards also must refer to her as female. She has been in jail since 1983 after she was arrested on a robbery charge.
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