The Justice Department filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the state of Utah and its prison system after a transgender inmate “removed her own testicles” in response to “unnecessarily delayed” treatment for her gender dysphoria. 

The lawsuit alleges that the incarcerated transgender woman – unnamed in the complaint –  was discriminated against by the Utah Department of Corrections following “multiple requests to UDOC staff for treatment for gender dysphoria, including multiple requests for hormone therapy” upon entering the state prison system in 2021. 

The inmate was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in June 2022, nine months after she first requested hormone therapy, and the hormones were not provided to her until January 2023, according to the complaint. 

“When UDOC started the Complainant on hormone therapy it did not do so safely or effectively,” the DOJ claims, adding that her access to care “was contingent on a biased and unnecessarily prolonged approval process” and resulted in her gender dysphoria worsening. 

“In May 2023, Complainant performed dangerous self-surgery and removed her own testicles, resulting in hospitalization and additional surgery,” the lawsuit states. 

In addition to seeking medical treatment, the inmate had sought and was denied “reasonable modifications” to prison policies aimed at helping her gender dysphoria symptoms, including the ability to buy “ female clothing and personal items.”

She had also requested that the prison – also unnamed in the suit –modify its “pat search policies” and “individually assess her housing requests.”

“UDOC denied virtually all of Complainant’s [Americans with Disabilities Act]  requests,” according to the DOJ. 

The Justice Department said in a statement that the lawsuit is “part of its broader efforts to combat discrimination against individuals with gender dysphoria.” 

“People with gender dysphoria, including those held in jails and prisons, are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and are entitled to equal access to medical care just like anyone else with a disability,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement.

“Delays or refusals to provide medical treatment for people with gender dysphoria can cause irreparable harm, including debilitating distress, depression, attempts at self-treatment and even death by suicide,” she added. “The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting the rights of all people with disabilities in our country, including those who experience gender dysphoria – and those rights are not given up at the jailhouse door.”

The lawsuit is demanding that Utah and its Department of Corrections and Department of Health and Human Services adopt policies that provide equal opportunities for incarcerated individuals with gender dysphoria; train prison staff on dealing with inmates with gender dysphoria; provide nondiscriminatory health care services to the complainant; and award compensatory damages to the inmate that removed her testicles.

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