The Washington State Department of Corrections (WADOC) has a history of neglecting the medical care of transgender prisoners. They also have a history of unnecessarily delaying the care. Some people go months trying to access healthcare for evaluations, hormones, and sometimes, they even wait years for a gender affirming surgery they may not be able to get.
In my experience and my observation, transgender inmates are often forced to send several medical requests and grievances to receive care. Most doctors and other medical personnel are not trained in working with us, and some have opted out of treating transgender inmates. As a result, care and treatment is delayed or denied.
This is a problem because we rely on the WADOC to provide our medical and mental health needs while we are in their care. Between Oct. 10, 2019, and Sept. 15, 2020, I have filed more than seven grievances and numerous medical requests asking for treatment and I have not yet received a response. I have also filed grievances concerning my requests for gender affirming cosmetics and trained medical specialists.
According to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) standard of care, transgender prisoners are entitled to competent medical professionals to treat them. The failure to do so is a violation of the Eighth Amendment because it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976) establishes the right to receive medically necessary care and Edmo v. Corizon, 935 F.3d 757 (2019), holds that gender confirmation surgery and hormones are medically necessary care that should be provided. Neglecting this care is harmful to the mental health of individuals seeking it. Without treatment, there is an overall increase in depression, low self-esteem, increase in self-harm, attempts of self-castration, torment, irreparable harm, and even suicide.
The National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 U.S. transgender survey estimated that there were about 28,000 transgender individuals in custody.
It is not like we can take our business elsewhere to get the care that we medically need.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.