For the first time in history, California’s corrections department has been ordered to foot the bill for an inmate’s sex change. The surgery could cost taxpayers $100,000.
On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar in San Diego ruled that denying the transsexual inmate, Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, sex reassignment surgery violates her constitutional rights, ABC News reports.
The decision is the first time the state has been ordered to pay for an inmate’s sex change. According to U.S. News & World Report, Judge Tigar’s ruling says this will be only the second time on a national level that sex reassignment surgery has been performed on an inmate. The ruling may be referencing a case in which a Texas inmate castrated himself and then had the surgery out of necessity.
California Department of Corrections officials are considering whether to appeal the ruling.
Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, 51, was born Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy. The California inmate has lived as a woman since the 1990s, according to the New York Daily News. The judge says Norsworthy suffers from severe gender dysphoria and to deny her sex reassignment surgery (SRS) is just not acceptable.
“The weight of the evidence demonstrates that for Norsworthy, the only adequate medical treatment for her gender dysphoria is SRS.”
However, corrections officials argued in earlier court filings that Norsworthy has “received proper medical and mental health care for more than 15 years and is no immediate medical danger if the surgery is not performed,” according to Fox 6 WBRC. Said care has included mental health services, counseling and hormone therapy that “has changed her physical appearance and voice to that of a woman while helping her find her gender identity.”
Joyce Hayhoe, spokeswoman for officials who control California’s prison medical care, said the exact cost of the surgery to taxpayers is not yet known, but could possibly reach $100,000.
Norsworthy has been in prison since 1987 and is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder. Currently housed in an all-male prison, corrections officials say keeping Norsworthy in a male prison may incite violence, including assault and possibly rape. However, she could also face violence in a women’s prison or be a potential threat to other inmates as she had a history of domestic violence before her murder conviction.
Although this is the first time in California that taxpayer dollars will pay for an inmate’s sex change surgery, it is not the first time U.S. taxpayers have paid for sexual reassignment surgery. As the Inquisitr previously reported, a 74-year-old New Mexico woman, Denee Mallon, fought Medicare’s ban on sex change surgeries and won. She underwent sexual reassignment surgery in January, with Medicare paying for it.
[Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]