The transgender inmate who fought to have the prison pay for her sex reassignment surgery is unlikely to have it happen after being granted parole.
In April, a federal judge forced the state to pay for Michelle-Lael Norsworthy's surgery. It was scheduled for July, but delayed after an appeal. On Friday, Governor Jerry Brown announced he would allow the parole board's decision to release Norsworthy to proceed, meaning she'd be released shortly. According to the AP it means Norworthy is unlikely to have the procedure done.
The 51-year old inmate has been in prison since she was 21, after being convicted in the shooting of Franklin Gordon Liefer, Jr. in Fullerton in November of 1985. Liefer died six weeks later, and Norsworthy was convicted of second-degree murder. She is now held at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione. Prison records say her birth name is Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy, but she has lived as a woman since the 90s.
Norsworthy was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in 1999 and began hormone therapy, which was provided by the state. She fought to have the state pay for sex reassignment surgery after hearing about a case in Massachusetts where a judge ordered the state to provide it for inmates—that case was later overturned.
In 2009, Norsworthy was the victim of a rape, which led her to become an advocate for rape-prevention policies while in prison. According to the L.A. Times, she told the parole board in May that, if released, she would move to San Francisco and work in the transgender community. "I've learned a lot about being a victim," she said. "Which made it possible for me to understand what I've done when I victimized other people."
On Friday, the state filed papers announcing it had agreed to pay for the sex reassignment surgery of another inmate serving a life sentence, Shiloh Quine. "[California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] evaluates every case individually, and in the Quine case, every medical doctor and mental health clinician who has reviewed this case, including two independent mental health experts, determined that this surgery is medically necessary for Quine," said a corrections spokesman in an email to the AP.