On May 2, a judge ruled that the state of Ohio must continue a transgender prisoner’s hormone therapy for as long as she is incarcerated.
When Whitney Lee was first denied the therapy in 2012, she filed a lawsuit, seeking an order that would require the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to resume her hormone therapy treatments and ensure her the right to them permanently.
The 36-year-old is currently serving the final seven months of a three-year prison sentence for forgery and theft. She says that after she was denied her prescribed hormones, the return of her testosterone caused her body to begin becoming more masculine again, including a reduction in breast tissue, her voice becoming deeper and her skin becoming rougher, and she grew facial hair.
She is also seeking $75,000 in damages from the state for denying her medically necessary treatment for almost two years, a matter which has yet to be resolved. The state of Ohio had claimed that Lee was not entitled to medical treatment for gender dysphoria due to not meeting the criteria for a diagnosis.
As a whole, Ohio law is currently not in the transgender community’s favor. According to TransOhio, “at this time Ohio does not allow trans people who were born in the state to change their gender marker on their Ohio birth certificate.” Markers on state identification such as driver’s licenses may be changed, but TransOhio calls says it’s “a hit-and-miss kind thing when it comes to the ease of changing that ever important gender marker.”
One document on the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction’s website states, under the subheader “Sterilization of Inmates and Sexual Gender Change,” that “hormone therapy prescribed for inmates in preparation for gender change surgery or for the purpose of gender modification shall be evaluated and requires authorization by joint consultation between the institutional Chief Medical Officer, the highest level mental health prescriber at the institution, the State Medical Director, and the Bureau of Mental Health Services Director of Clinical Services…
“The institutional Chief Medical Officer, in consultation with the highest level mental health prescriber at the institution, the State Medical Director, and the Bureau of Mental Health Services Director of Clinical Services shall evaluate any individual with definitive sexual gender surgery done prior to incarceration to determine the need for continuation of hormonal therapy on a case-by-case basis.”
Additionally, it declares that “Sexual gender change operations shall not be permitted while the inmate is incarcerated,” but “Inmates with gender confusion shall have access to mental health services and should be encouraged to seek such counseling.”