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Federal judge orders California prison inmate be granted sexual reassignment

Federal judge orders California prison system to allow inmate to undergo gender reassignment surgery

A federal judge Thursday ordered that a California prison inmate be allowed to undergo gender reassignment surgery.

Should the operation occur, it will be the first in state prison history and cost as much as $100,000, according to Joyce Hayhoe, spokeswoman for California Corrections Health Care Services.

U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco ruled that Michelle-Lael Norsworthy's constitutional rights were being violated if the inmate’s “serious medical need” was not met, according to the ruling.

Norsworthy, 51, is housed at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione. Norsworthy, born Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy, was convicted of murder, according to the Associated Press.

Norsworthy, who has identified as a woman since the 1990s, has suffered severe dysphoria, or dissatisfaction with her life, due to her natural-born gender, Tigar said in the ruling.

“The weight of the evidence demonstrates that for Norsworthy, the only adequate medical treatment for her gender dysphoria" is sexual reassignment surgery, Tigar said in his ruling.

The Department of Corrections denied the "necessary treatment" for reasons unrelated to medical need, according to the ruling. 

"The evidence suggests that Norsworthy’s request for SRS was denied because [the Department of Corrections] has a blanket policy barring SRS as a treatment for transgender inmates," Tigar wrote. 

State prison officials are considering appealing the ruling, the AP reported.

Norsworthy entered prison in April 1987, according to records. She began identifying as a woman in the 1990s and was diagnosed with dysphoria in January 2000, according to the ruling.

The operation is to take place in the near future, according to the ruling.

“Defendants shall take all of the actions reasonably necessary to provide Norsworthy sex reassignment surgery as promptly as possible,” according to the ruling.

Hayhoe said her office is reviewing the ruling to “determine the next steps.”

Surgical operations do not take place at prisons in California, Hayhoe said. All operations, including Norsworthy’s should it happen, are done at community hospitals.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

7:42 p.m.: This story has been updated with information that Norsworthy was convicted of murder.

This story was originally published at 6:47 p.m. 

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