A trans inmate in a Virginia prison has filed a federal lawsuit months after a botched attempt at self-castration, claiming the state failed her because of its refusal to provide a sex-change operation.

Ophelia De’lonta, 50, who was born Michael Stokes, has been in prison since 1978 on robbery, drugs and weapons charges.

De’lonta claims she needs the surgery to treat her gender identity disorder.

“This is not something that I have any control over,” she said. “This is just how I was born.”

De’lonta won a court order in 2004 to allow her to take hormones which helped her grow breasts. She has attempted self-surgery several times in the past.

But last winter, De’lonta “snapped” when a prison guard at the all-male Buckingham Correctional Centre referred to her as “he”.

“I screamed ‘She, dammit!’ becoming so overwhelmed it was hard to breathe,” said De’lonta.

Later that evening, De’lonta spent three hours attempting self-castration, eventually passing out. She required 21 stitches to repair the damage.

She told the Associated Press that she felt all her problems would be solved if she could rid herself of male genitalia: “It’s like if this doesn’t exist, then I won’t have any more problems.”

Trans inmates in five other states – Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Colorado, California and Idaho – also have sued in order to get prison doctors to perform such surgery. Four of the cases have failed, but a decision in the Massachusetts case is pending.

Republican Virginia delegate Todd Gilbert said he would propose state legislation if De’lonta is successful in her case, but stressed it wouldn’t be funded by the taxpayer.

De’lonta said that if her bid is unsuccessful, she’d possibly attempt self-surgery again, despite the risk of potentially fatal results.