This Trans Inmate Was Denied Access To Gender Reassignment Surgery But That Could Change With This Recent Court Ruling
In a surprising turn of events, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Friday that the state of Idaho must provide gender confirmation surgery for its transgender prison inmates. This upheld the original decision made by the US District Court: that denying inmates the surgery amounted to a violation of the US Constitution. While this is definitely a momentous step forward for trans rights, despite the rise of conservatism in today’s America, the story doesn’t end there. No, that would just be too simple.
It’s worth knowing the background to the case.
The decision didn’t just appear out of nowhere. The original ruling came as a result of a lawsuit an inmate of Idaho State Correctional Center, Adree Edmo, brought to the Idaho Department of Correction and its medical provider, Corizon, in 2017. Having struggled with her gender identity, attempted suicide and also tried to castrate herself, Edmo contended that the state’s refusal to provide her with the gender confirmation surgery she needs amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Ultimately, it’s a contravention of her Eighth Amendment rights.
Edmo has been forced to live as a male in an all-male prison.
Despite the fact that Edmo has been living as a woman for years, she has been housed in a men’s prison during that time, and so far been denied what is clearly needed medical care. “They certainly would treat a prisoner with cancer, they treat a prisoner with diabetes, or other chronic conditions,” Deborah Ferguson, an attorney for Edmo, said in a recent interview. “So, we have a medically recognized condition that’s very treatable and we have been trying to get her the treatment that she very much needs.”
Nevertheless, the state says that it’ll take the case to the US Supreme Court.
“The court’s decision is extremely disappointing,” Idaho Governor Brad Little said in response to the decision. “The hardworking taxpayers of Idaho should not be forced to pay for a convicted sex offender’s gender reassignment surgery when it is contrary to the medical opinions of the treating physician and multiple mental health professionals.”
With this verdict, Edmo could be transferred to a women’s prison.
Granted, it would seem that this statement flies in the face of other known facts related to the case. So, let’s clear it all up, now. Firstly, Edmo was diagnosed with gender dysmorphia back in 2012. Considering that she has been living as a woman for years, now, despite the risks this would pose while she is being detained in a men’s prison, would suggest that she is in need of support and treatment. In other words, as the decision determined, Edmo should undergo gender confirmation surgery and be transferred to a women’s detention center afterwards.
The state government doesn’t want to pay for the surgery.
As far as costs to the state go, that’s a little more complicated. The contract that the state currently has with Corizon sees that necessary medical care is already covered. And, naturally, that contract was paid for with money collected from taxes. But, the contract is also designed to provide for the healthcare of many other prison inmates, too. Because, at the end of the day, imprisonment isn’t designed to violate an individual’s constitutional rights. And you know what? If Little was so concerned about taxpayer dollars, then maybe the state wouldn’t have forked out over $300,000 to fight a procedure that, at most, would cost $30,000.
But wait a minute … Edmo is a sex offender?
Yeah. She pled guilty to charges that she sexually abused a 15 year old when Edmo herself was about 22 years of age. The fact of the matter is that, simply because she committed a crime – and a heinous one at that – doesn’t mean that she waives any and all needed medical care. This case is about upholding the tenets around basic human rights.
This court decision could lead to more inmates getting the care they require.
Part of the problem with Little’s statement to the media isn’t just that he has provided inaccuracies. It also ties into a larger narrative concerning the LGBTQI community that paints queer people as pedophiles and predators. Recent reports of people posing as gay men on Twitter in an attempt to associate queerness with pedophilia continue to propagate that false narrative. And this isn’t a new thing, either – last year a fake LGBTQI account was set up to promote pedophilia at an Oregon Pride Parade.
Chances are Governor Little is less concerned about the current case, and more worried about the precedent it sets for the future. Currently, five other inmates in the state of Idaho have requested for gender confirmation surgery. As Edmo is set to be the first person to undergo gender confirmation surgery while in custody, her victory may forge a pathway forward for others in a similar position.