The woman who made history as the person in the United States to receive gender reassignment surgery while incarcerated is spurring more changes in California's correctional system, as new proposed rules would allow trans inmates makeup and undergarments that reflect their gender identity even if the place of their inprisonment does not.
You already know the name Shiloh Heavenly Quine, the 57-year-old convicted murderer whose lawsuit paved the way for California prison inmates to receive the surgery, as outlined in official guidelines announced by the California Department of Corrections back in October of 2015. It was announced in January that Quine underwent the procedure in a San Francisco hospital, after which she was transferred to the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla.
But even after the surgery, things were still difficult for Quine, who will remain behind bars the rest of her life, without the possibility of parole, following an alcohol-fueled 1980 robbery and fatal shooting in Los Angeles for which she and an accomplice were convicted. In a hand-written federal court filing reported on by the Associated Press last week, Quine said that her new housing is a "torture unit."
Quine is housed alone in a cell but said she still has no privacy to perform required intimate post-operative procedures and is enduring "a restrictive isolation" that is pushing her toward anxiety, depression and sadness.
Her beard and mustache are having a "huge impact on day to day life" and are making the transition to life as a woman more difficult, she wrote in a filing received Friday at the court.
The department has "no legitimate penological objective but harassment" in denying shaving access, she wrote. Quine asked the federal judge overseeing her lawsuit to order prison officials to provide electrolysis to remove her facial hair, or at least a razor.
Corrections department spokeswoman Terry Thornton said all female reception center inmates are routinely denied razors and televisions along with other privileges while they are evaluated. Inmates can't have razors until officials are confident they won't harm themselves or others.
Quine said the restrictions could last a year, but Thornton said 45 days is typical and Quine is nearly finished with the process that will determine where she is permanently housed, the programs she is assigned, and whether she needs mental health or substance abuse treatment, for instance.
"It's a very thorough process, which is why it can take a while. But it's a process every inmate goes through," Thornton said. "There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to male and female inmates."
Quine's initial lawsuit, which was settled in 2015 when the state agreed to provide her surgery, also "led a federal magistrate to provide transgender female inmates housed in men's facilities with items such as nightgowns, scarves and necklaces, though Quine's attorneys are still sparring with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation over the details," the AP reported last week. At least some of that sparring appears to have been quelled, as the AP reported Tuesday night that proposed rules filed with state regulators yesterday say that "Transgender female inmates housed in men’s facilities could have feminine undergarments, lip gloss and mascara, for instance, while transgender male inmates in women’s prisons could wear aftershave and boxers."
According to the AP, the federal magistrate overseeing the case "previously ordered the state to provide some of the items." But though the rules have been submitted, nothing's final as of yet: Quine's attorneys will return to court on April 27 to resolve those lingering details, and the proposed new rules must still "have a public hearing and comment period before they can take effect."