Court Battles

Transgender prisoner sues in Virginia after surgery denied

A transgender inmate at a Virginia prison is taking legal action against the state’s correctional department over allegations that officials denied him gender confirmation surgery and other medical treatment. 

LGBT rights organization Lambda Legal filed the lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of Jason Yoakam, who has been held at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Troy, Va., for a 2004 first-degree murder conviction. 

According to the complaint, Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) medical providers diagnosed Yoakam in 2017 with gender dysphoria, which the American Psychiatric Association defines as “psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity.” 

While Yoakam began hormone therapy in 2017, Lambda Legal said in the lawsuit that prison staff, as well as medical providers, “do not always correctly refer to Mr. Yoakam by his name or pronouns.” 

Additionally, the organization argued that the inmate and his doctors “have made numerous formal and informal requests that he be evaluated for chest surgery and that he receives mental health care from a qualified mental health professional with experience to treat gender dysphoria.” 

However, the legal group argued that VDOC officials and medical providers have been “deliberately indifferent to Mr. Yoakam’s serious medical needs and have denied him care for these needs.” 

“Defendants’ denial of necessary care to Mr. Yoakam unconstitutionally ignores relevant standards of care and the specific recommendations of Mr. Yoakam’s doctors,” the complaint continued. 

The lawsuit went on to say that the inmate has experienced serious and worsening symptoms caused by his inadequately treated gender dysphoria.” 

In a statement shared with NBC News on Wednesday, Yoakam said, “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.” 

“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,” he added. 

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. 

VDOC spokesperson Lisa Kinney said in a statement to The Hill that while she “cannot comment on a specific inmate’s confidential medical information,” she said that “all medically necessary treatment is available” to Virginia inmates.

“Treatment decisions are made on a case by case basis,” she continued. “In addition to medical treatment, individual and group therapy is also available. We follow the community standard of care.”

Kinney noted that out of a total 24,229 VDOC inmates, 86 identify as transgender, with 60 officially diagnosed by medical officials with gender dysphoria. 


Tags Department of Corrections gender dysphoria Hormones NBC News Virginia

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