CREDIT: AP Photo/Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections
Whitney Lee, a 36-year-old transgender woman who is housed in a male prison in Ohio, will be able to keep receiving hormone therapy, a judge decided on Friday.
Lee had been openly identifying as transgender since she was 18, and had been receiving hormone therapy since 1999. But, after she was sentenced to three years on forgery charges, the Mansfield Correctional Institution had stopped allowing Lee to get treatment in February of 2012. Discontinuing the treatments, Lee’s lawyer said in a request obtained by AP, had led to loss of breast tissue, a deepening voice, and facial hair growth.
It also led to serious depression, and Lee had been placed on suicide watch after the treatments stopped.
While the case has been under review, Lee was allowed to resume the treatments. Judge Algenon Marbley on Friday said that the treatments must be permanently restored, despite objections from the prison, according to NBC’s WKYC, that “a psychiatrist has determined Lee lacks the criteria for gender identity disorder and the therapy can’t be justified.”
Transgender people are often ostracized in prisons because they don’t fit into the birth-assigned gender designations of correctional facilities. Like Lee, they are forced into a prison that does not match their own identity and sometimes denied the care they need in their transition. Sometimes, prisoners are put into solitary for not conforming to the gender identity of their fellow inmates. Just last month, a trans teenage girl was transferred to an adult male facility, where she is isolated from interaction with any of the other inmates.
Worse yet, trans women in prisons are thirteen times more likely than others to be sexually assaulted while locked up. And even when there is no sexual violence against them, trans inmates can be particularly at risk for self-harm.
Canada has previously transferred inmates to prisons based on their identity rather than anatomy, but in the United States, inmates remain incarcerated based on anatomy, not gender.