A transgender inmate has filed a lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction after her hormone treatments were discontinued in February 2012.
Whitney Lee, a transgender woman serving a three-year sentence at Mansfield Correctional Institution on forgery and theft charges, began hormone replacement therapy in 1999. Her treatment was halted in February 2012 after a prison psychiatrist concluded that Lee did not meet the medical criteria for gender dysphoria, and therefore should no be allowed continued access to treatment.
Gender dysphoria is characterized in the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as "a marked difference between the individual's expressed/experienced gender and the gender others would assign him or her." The DSM elaborates, "It must continue for at least six months. In children, the desire to be of the other gender must be present and verbalized. This condition causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning."
Lee, 36, has been living as a woman since she was 18.
The complaint argues that denying an inmate necessary medical treatment is a violation of that individual's Eighth Amendment rights. Hormone replacement therapy has been deemed medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria by the American Medical Association and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.
According to Cincinnati's WLWT, the state has dismissed Lee's accusation, contending that the denial of treatment constitutes, at most, medical malpractice, and not a violation of a prisoner's constitutional rights.
Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled that denial of accepted medical treatment for gender dysphoria — including hormone therapy and gender-confirming surgeries — is a violation of an individual's Eighth Amendment rights.