Why Trans People Should Follow Ophelia De’Lonta’s Appeal
Attorney Victor Glasberg will represent transwoman Ophelia De’Lonta in the 4th circuit US Court of Appeals. De’Lonta has been serving a 70 year sentence in an all-male correctional facility since 1983 and believes the state should pay for her sexual reassignment surgery. Her case is an example of how transgendered inmates are treated in the United States. A favorable outcome is in the best interests of all transgendered people.
One big misconception of transsexual people is that we opt to change our sexes. Our medical treatment is often considered voluntary, not necessary. This is not the case as I’ve experienced it. My gender identity is as innately female as any other woman’s. I transitioned only when I could no longer function as a man. Transition for a transsexual is more compulsory than it is voluntary. De’Lonta has filed suit for a state funded SRS only after attempting to perform her own surgery.
I have two main concerns about De’Lonta’s situation: first, she has been on contra-hormone therapy since 2004 and has a noticeably feminine body, yet she is still housed in an all male facility, and the only reason our state should not pay for her SRS is if it were not medically necessary. SRS is not only a medical need in certain cases but, I think in De’Lonta’s case, for her safety, it necessary to allow her to serve the remainder of her sentence in a female prison.
Contra-hormone therapy alters a transsexual’s body to be congruent with their target sex, but in order to legally change one’s sex, an irreversible medical procedure, or surgery, has traditionally been required. Only very recently did the Virginia DMV change this requirement. Transwomen have real breasts, curves, body fat distribution and the physical strength of cisgendered women. Housing a pre-op transsexual woman in an all male correctional facility cannot possibly be safe for her.
I have heard other transsexuals complain that it would be unfair if De’Lonta was granted SRS simply for serving time in prison. I personally prefer saving fifty dollars a week for three years to a 70-year prison sentence, and the state’s refusal to pay for De’Lonta’s SRS shows that our society still considers transition to be optional in nature. A favorable ruling in her appeal would set a precedent that our medical needs are real and important. Perhaps more insurance companies would begin covering transsexual services if our needs were legally recognized.
Transgendered people often occupy a legally unrecognized third sex. De’Lonta’s case in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will affect the legal standing of all transgender people. Where we serve prison sentences if convicted of a crime and whether the court finds our medical needs to be real or imaginary in nature should be a huge concern for all transgendered people.
Natalie Gates loves food, cooking and her dog. She is passionate about art, transgender theory and politics. She writes about gender and publishes recipes online.
Life as a transgender person can bring many difficulties, but behind bars things get even more complicated. In sex-segregated facilities, where can transgender people be safely housed? What forms of therapy and healthcare are transgender people entitled to? How should prisons treat transgender inmates? Top Image: (L-R) Eric Grollman, Eugene Simopoulos, Rebecca Glenberg and Jackie [...]June 26, 2014
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