The California Department of Corrections Tuesday announced official guidelines regarding sexual reassignment surgery for transgender inmates, making California the first state to publicly set such standards. This move, which comes after two cases brought against the state by the Transgender Law Center, is considered a groundbreaking one and will directly impact the lives of trans inmates.
The new standards, which went into effect yesterday, follow on the heels of an August settlement between the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Shiloh Quine, a transgender inmate who sued to be permitted care — including sexual reassignment surgery — deemed medically necessary by her doctors. Also this follows on the August paroling of trans inmate Michelle-Lael Norsworthy who had also been fighting to have her surgery paid for by the state.
“By adopting this groundbreaking policy, California has set a model for the rest of the country and ensured transgender people in prison can access life-saving care when they need it,” Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center, was quoted as saying in a press release from the organization.
The Associated Press today reported on what the new guidelines do and do not mean, and how many inmates could potentially be impacted.
The eight-page document calls for inmates who request the surgery and meet the basic criteria to be referred for evaluation to a committee of two medical doctors, two psychiatrists and two psychologists, which would make a recommendation to another higher-level committee of medical professionals. [...]
There are currently 375 males and 26 females in the prison system receiving hormone therapy that gives them the characteristics of the opposite sex. They are housed in prisons based on their birth gender unless they have surgery, with many in special protective housing or in mental health facilities.
The guidelines set by the state are detailed, and include what procedures will and will not be covered — stating that procedures the state considers "cosmetic will not be performed."
This is considered an important win for the trans community, with Quine telling the Transgender Law Center how this news will change her life.
“After so many years of almost giving up on myself, I will finally be liberated from the prison within a prison I felt trapped in, and feel whole, both as a woman and as a human being."