Story at a glance:
- Virginia Department of Corrections, or VADOC, allegedly denied a transgender man gender confirmation surgery and other medical treatment, according to a lawsuit.
- Lambda Legal, a legal organization that focuses on LGBTQ+ rights, is representing Jason Yoakam in one of the first such cases brought by an incarcerated transgender man.
- Trans women have filed a number of similar lawsuits.
An incarcerated transgender man is bringing legal action against the Virginia Department of Corrections for allegedly denying him gender confirmation surgery and other medical treatment, according to NBC News.
With the backing of Lambda Legal, a legal organization that focuses on LGBTQ+ rights, Jason Yoakam is among the first transgender men who are incarcerated to file such a lawsuit, NBC News reports.
Among transgender women who are incarcerated, a number of similar lawsuits have been filed, and some have been won, according to NBC News.
Yoakam is being held in the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Troy, Va., for a 2004 first-degree murder conviction.
In 2017, Yoakam was diagnosed by VADOC medical providers with gender dysphoria, according to the complaint. Gender dysphoria is the psychological distress experienced when an individual’s sex assigned at birth is incongruent with their gender identity, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Yoakam began hormone therapy in 2017. The lawsuit says that prison staff “do not always correctly refer to Mr. Yoakam by his name or pronouns.”
“The only thing I am asking is to be treated fairly and have access to the same standard of healthcare that other incarcerated people receive,” Yoakam said in a statement reported by NBC News. “It has been traumatizing, isolating, and stigmatizing to be denied health care services to treat the gender dysphoria that VDOC’s own providers have diagnosed.”
Yoakim uses a chest binder as treatment for his dysphoria, but the lawsuit states that this causes physical injuries.
“The binder sometimes is so tight that it cuts into Mr. Yoakam’s skin and causes him to bleed,” the complaint states. “He has also developed scars, rashes, and acne from the binder. These injuries have also led to infections from the binder. Unless he receives chest surgery, Mr. Yoakam will have to continue to use the binder and suffer the resulting injuries.”
The only times Yoakam doesn’t wear his binder is during showers. But the complaint states that his dysphoria has gotten worse, with him becoming physically sick and experiencing depression, anxiety and panic attacks.
“This is about health care,” Richard Saenz, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal who is representing Yoakam, told NBC News. “Mr. Yoakam and other incarcerated people have a right to health care under the Constitution, and here the Virginia Department of Corrections is not providing him with the medical care that his doctors have deemed medically necessary for him.”
The defendants in the case include VDOC Director Harold Clarke, VDOC Chief of Corrections Operations David Robinson and other officials and medical providers from the state agency and prison.
A VDOC spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill that she “cannot comment on a specific inmate's confidential medical information,” but “all medically necessary treatment is available” to Virginia inmates.
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