A Federal appeals court has acknowledged that transgender people do exist and that we are at least vaguely human (Fields, et al v Smith et al (pdf)).
Wisconsin passed a law in 2005 (The Sex Change Prevention Act) banning publicly funded therapy for transgender inmates. The 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals struck down that law, saying that denying treatment amounted to torture.
Judge Charles Clevert actually struck down the law last year and the state appealed.
Clevert found that the law amounts to "deliberate indifference to the plaintiffs' serious medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment," because it denies hormone therapy without regard to those needs or doctors' judgments. He found the law unconstitutional on its face and also in violation of the inmates' rights to equal protection.
The case was brought by a group of "male inmates" who identify as female.
Some of the plaintiffs had been on hormones for years before the law was passed. They included Andrea Fields, who had been taking hormones since 1996. Before the law was blocked, the inmate's hormone dosage was cut in half, which led to nausea, weakness, loss of appetite and hair growth, according to court records.
Surely, had the Wisconsin Legislature passed a law that DOC inmates with cancer must be treated only with therapy and pain killers, this court would have no trouble concluding that the law was unconstitutional. Refusing to provide effective treatment for a serious medical condition serves no valid penological purpose and amounts to torture.
This was a discriminatory law that cruelly singled out transgender people by denying them - and only them - the medical care they need.
Too often the medical needs of transgender persons are not treated as the serious health issues that they are. We are glad that the appeals court has found that medical professionals, not the Wisconsin Legislature, should make medical decisions for inmates.
--ACLU attorney John Knight
The court correctly ruled that denying prisoners medical treatment constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The medical needs of transgender people don't disappear once they enter prison. We're glad that the court has ruled that the legislature cannot outlaw the only effective treatment for some people with GID.
The office of the Republican attorney general, J. B. Van Hollen is said to be reviewing its legal options. It could appeal to the full 7th Circuit or to SCOTUS.
We don't believe the Constitution requires prison officials to provide hormone therapy and sexual reassignment surgery to prisoners. However, the Seventh Circuit disagrees and we will now have to consider our litigation options in light of today’s decision.