A prison inmate who performed a self-castration with a razor blade after being refused treatment for gender identity disorder should have female hormone therapy paid for by the state, a federal judge has said.
Jenniffer Spencer, born Randall Gammett, sued the Department of Corrections in the US state of Idaho for violation of her constitutional rights and for the punishment she was subjected to when doctors failed to diagnose gender identity disorder and treat her with female hormones.
Instead, the department and its doctors repeatedly offered Spencer, 27, the male hormone testosterone.
A trial over the lawsuit has not been scheduled, but U.S. District Judge Mikel Williams ruled on Friday that the state must provide Spencer with psychotherapy and oestrogen before the trial, which may not take place until after her release in two years time.
According to state attorney John Burke, the prison doctors did not find conclusive evidence that Spencer has gender identity disorder, and argued it would be unethical for the doctors to prescribe a drug that wasn’t needed and that could be potentially harmful.
Judge Williams disagreed.
“There is no evidence before the court that female hormones have, in fact, proved harmful to male subjects who are no longer producing testosterone,” said Judge Williams, according to AP.
He added that other transgender inmates are already receiving female hormone therapy, and so the state is able to handle any special concerns that might arise if Spencer were given oestrogen.
Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Centre for Lesbian Rights and an attorney for Spencer, said her client was pleased by the ruling.
Corrections Department spokesman Jeff Ray said yesterday that the agency could not comment until it considered the implications of the ruling.
Spencer, who was imprisoned in 2000 for possession of a stolen car and escape, had lived full time as a woman and took birth control pills in an attempt to develop the secondary sexual characteristics of a woman.
She didn’t tell Corrections Department officials she thought she had gender identity disorder until September 2003, when she discovered the state had a policy detailing treatment options for transgender inmates.
Spencer said the department ignored the 75 requests she submitted for gender identity disorder treatment. Instead, prison doctors diagnosed a non-specific sexual disorder, then bipolar disorder.
In August 2004, Spencer tried to hang herself in her cell but survived.
Two months later she tried to castrate herself, failing in the first attempt but succeeding 10 days later.
Judge Williams ruled that Spencer has a fair chance of winning at trial.
“While defendants seem to have identified the fact that plaintiff has a significant mental health issue regarding gender identity or confusion, there is little in the record to show that they have provided adequate psychotherapy or other counselling to address that issue.
“Rather, they seem to have consciously disregarded it,” he said, according to AP.