Transgender Prisoner’s Lawsuit Sparks BOP Policy Change
By Derek Gilna
A lawsuit filed by a transgender federal prisoner in Massachusetts has resulted in the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) making appropriate medical care available “to [prisoners] who believe they are the wrong gender,” according to a May 31, 2011 memo issued to all BOP wardens. Previous BOP policy limited treatment of transgender prisoners to medical care that maintained them “at the level of [gender] change which existed when they were incarcerated.”
The prisoner who filed suit, Vanessa Adams, whose legal name is Nicholas Adams, had been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (GID) in 2005 by medical professionals at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners (USMCFP) in Springfield, Missouri.
Adams sought declaratory and injunctive relief under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2201 and 2202.
Her lawsuit noted that GID is a “recognized diagnosable and treatable medical condition listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR).” Medically appropriate GID treatment options include providing patients with 1) hormones of the desired gender; 2) the “real life experience,” i.e. living full-time as the new gender; and 3) surgery to change the patient’s sex characteristics – often collectively referred to as “triadic therapy.”
According to her complaint, Adams “believed she was assigned the wrong gender,” which caused her “much emotional turmoil.” Those feelings intensified during her incarceration; she amputated her penis and attempted to castrate herself.