Transgender inmate sues Oregon Department of Corrections

Interview with transgender prisoner Michelle Wright

Warning: This article contains graphic language.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon filed a lawsuit in federal court Monday on behalf of Michelle Wright, alleging that Wright, a transgender prisoner, was denied essential medical care by the Oregon Department of Corrections.

Wright, a 25-year-old prisoner at Two Rivers Correctional Facility in Umatilla, Oregon, was diagnosed with gender dysphoria by ODOC in November 2014.

Gender dysphoria, formerly known as gender identity disorder, is a recognized condition in which a person feels that their emotional and psychological identity as male or female is opposite to their biological sex.

The lawsuit claims that despite almost 100 requests since 2013 for medical care for gender dysphoria, including hormone therapy and counseling, Wright has repeatedly been ignored or denied care from ODOC.

The lawsuit says Wright has attempted suicide multiple times and tried to castrate herself three times.

That kind of reaction is not uncommon for people with gender dysphoria, said Dr. Christina Milano, associate professor of family medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, in a news release issued by the ACLU.

"When people feel misaligned with their bodies, it produces severe anxiety and depression, and in many cases, self-harm and suicidal thoughts," Milano said.

The lawsuit also claims Wright has been harassed by prison staff. Guards reportedly called Wright a "fag" and a "fucking freak."

Wright has privately identified as female since she was a young child. She started wearing women's clothing and publicly identifying as a woman at age 16, but was unable to begin hormone therapy prior to her incarceration for first-degree attempted robbery in August 2013.

The lawsuit demands the adoption of adequate and effective policies to provide access to transgender-related medical and mental health care by ODOC, as well as compensatory and punitive damages for Wright.

LAWSUIT: Read the complete lawsuit filing here

KGW


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