Transgendered woman sues Ashcroft, U.S. government

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com April 01 2003 1:00 AM ET

A U.S. Border Patrol specialist who underwent sex-change surgery has sued the government, alleging discrimination. Tracy Nichole Sturchio, formerly known as Ronald Sturchio, claims in a U.S. district court civil rights lawsuit that she has been harassed and discriminated against because she is a "transgender citizen." Her lawsuit says she can't wear a dress to work or use the women's bathroom and that she has been subjected to sexual harassment and workplace discrimination. The lawsuit seeks $500,000 for compensatory and punitive damages, along with an unspecified amount for mental anguish and emotional distress.

Sturchio, who declined comment, has been employed by the Border Patrol since 1991 and has worked at the Spokane, Wash., office since July 1998. She is still employed as a telecommunications specialist at the Border Patrol office in Spokane. The defendants are Attorney General John Ashcroft; Border Patrol chief Gustavo De LaVina; and Michael J. Garcia, commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Marvin Foust, assistant chief patrol agent at the Spokane office, said officials cannot comment on pending litigation.

Sturchio supervised a crew of four employees assigned to install and maintain the patrol's telecommunications equipment, the lawsuit says. "The plaintiff's appearance is very effeminate due to accidental exposure to the female hormone estrogen and other unknown chemicals," the suit reads without elaboration.

The alleged harassment began in February 2000, when two Border Patrol employees suggested that a union steward conduct a survey "regarding Sturchio's physical condition and feminine appearance," the lawsuit alleges.