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Suit filed for transgender inmate in Virginia prison alleging he was denied necessary surgery
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Suit filed for transgender inmate in Virginia prison alleging he was denied necessary surgery

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Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women

The Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women

A transgender man held at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women has filed a lawsuit against state prison officials alleging he is being denied medically necessary care after being refused chest surgery.

In a 33-page complaint filed by Lamda Legal Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, located in Charlottesville, Jason Yoakam said he was denied breast removal surgery by the Virginia Department of Corrections, which says it is not medically necessary for his treatment for gender dysphoria. He also alleges he has been denied qualified mental health care.

His lawyers said his treating endocrinologist and a transgender health specialist at the University of Virginia have said that chest surgery is a medically necessary treatment. He alleges the denial violates his protection against cruel and unusual punishment and his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Yoakam was diagnosed with gender dysphoria by the prison system in 2017. As part of his treatment, Yoakam has received hormone therapy and was given a binder for his chest — but not chest surgery. The lawsuit alleges that the department has a de facto policy or practice to deny surgery for gender dysphoria.

He has severe gender dysphoria and suffers from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, sleep and appetite disturbance and physical pain related to his chest, according to the suit. He began to bind his chest as a preteen and continues to do so, causing him bleeding, scarring and pain, according to the suit.

In a statement released by his lawyers Thursday, Yoakam, 42, said, “The only thing I am asking is to be treated fairly and have access to the same standard of health care that other incarcerated people receive. It has been traumatizing, isolating and stigmatizing to be denied health care services to treat the gender dysphoria that VDOC’s own providers have diagnosed.”

The suit was filed under the name Jason Yoakam. The suit notes Yoakam has applied to the Fluvanna County Circuit Court to have his name legally changed to Jason Yoakam but the change is pending.

Records show he is slated to be released next May. He is serving sentences for convictions in Lee County for murder, conspiracy to commit murder and a firearm offense.

Although the Department of Corrections does not comment on pending litigation, on Thursday prisons spokesperson Lisa Kinney said, “All medically necessary treatment is available. Treatment decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. In addition to medical treatment, individual and group therapy is also available. We follow the community standard of care.”

She said there are 86 transgender prisoners in the 24,000-inmate system. Sixty have been diagnosed, 16 are awaiting gender dysphoria assessment and 10 transgender inmates either do not have the diagnosis and/or are not requesting one.

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