The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon has filed a federal lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Corrections and department administrators alleging a transgender prisoner is being denied "medically necessary care."
The prisoner is question is listed on the Oregon Department of Corrections website as Michale James Wright, a 25-year-old man booked into prison in August 2013 for the crime of first-degree attempted robbery.
Her attorneys, however, state in a lawsuit that Wright's name is Michelle and she has identified as a female since she was a child. Wright first publicly identified as a female starting at age 16, according to court documents, but had not started hormone therapy prior to her incarceration.
The lawsuit states Wright was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in November 2014 by a Department of Corrections doctor.
The lawsuit states gender dysphoria is a serious medical condition requiring treatment and Wright has requested "medically necessary care," including hormone therapy, around 100 times.
Instead of receiving treatment, according to the lawsuit, she has been placed in disciplinary segregation and been ridiculed with slurs by prison workers.
That has led to multiple attempts at suicide and self-castration, according to the ACLU.
"Ms. Wright will continue to suffer substantial and irreparable harm absent immediate relief," the lawsuit states.
Following her first suicide attempt, according to court documents, she told doctors she was "trying to rid herself of her maleness," and believed that "cleansing through bleeding" would allow her female anatomy to "become present."
The lawsuit alleges that prison staff is not properly trained to deal with transgender prisoners and prisoners with gender dysphoria, leading to discipline and reprimand instead of treatment.
The lawsuit is seeking all "medically necessary treatment" for Wright's gender dysphoria, including hormone therapy, therapeutic individual counseling, therapeutic transgender group support, surgery and permitting her to express her gender identity through grooming, pronoun use and dress.
The lawsuit also seeks compensation for physical injuries, mental and emotional injuries, pain and suffering and personal humiliation in an amount to be determined at trial.
"It would mean a big step forward for the Oregon Department of Corrections and transgendered people overall," Wright said Monday.
Wright's earliest release date is listed as November 2018.
The Department of Corrections released a statement about the lawsuit Monday, saying, "While it is the policy of the Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) not to comment on matters of pending litigation, DOC has been proactive in addressing the needs of incarcerated transgender people. DOC looks forward to its continued work on these issues and to responding to the specific complaints raised in the litigation in court."
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