A transgender inmate in Connecticut received a favorable ruling after filing a lawsuit against health care providers in the state’s Department of Corrections (DOC) alleging that they failed to adequately treat her gender dysphoria after she attempted to castrate herself.
On September 15, U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant ruled in favor of Veronica-May Clark, a transgender woman serving “what is essentially a life sentence in prison” who alleged that providers’ “failure to adequately treat her gender dysphoria constitutes a violation of her right against cruel and unusual punishment.” In 2007, Clark was placed in custody of the DOC after she was convicted of “murder, assault, burglary with a deadly weapon, and violation of protective order.”
“Less than two months after her diagnosis, Ms. Clark attempted self-castration by using a pair of nail clippers to remove her testicles,” the ruling says. The judge also ruled against defendants motion to dismiss many of Clark’s claims, including that she did not experience intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The ruling last week comes amid ongoing conversations surrounding LGBTQ+ and transgender rights in the U.S. Some Republican officials have proposed legislation seeking to block gender-affirming medical care for minors in their states, while others have argued against allowing transgender women to compete in female sports categories.
“Transgender people in prison are exposed to horrific rates of abuse by both staff and their fellow inmates, facing physical and sexual assault at much higher rates than their counterparts,” the National Center for Transgender Equality says. “Transgender prisoners also face numerous other challenges behind bars, including denials of medical care and lengthy stays in solitary confinement.”
Following the self-castration attempt, Clark requested medical treatment for her gender dysphoria but was initially denied hormone therapy treatment.
“Ten months later and after threats of litigation were lodged, the prison physician referred Ms. Clark to an outside endocrinologist for evaluation and potential hormone therapy treatment,” the ruling said.
“The endocrinologist recommended the prison physician prescribe Ms. Clark a starter dose of hormone medication and return Ms. Clark for a follow-up appointment in three months. The medication was prescribed, but Ms. Clark was not returned to the endocrinologist for her first three-month follow-up appointment for 22 months.”
The ruling goes on to include a number of other claims Clark made relating to medical providers’ failure to adequately treat her condition, such as her hormone prescriptions expiring on several occasions and a lack of evaluation for possible surgical procedures.
According to the ruling, experts for Clark and the defendants agreed that “Clark has not received adequate treatment for her gender dysphoria since April 2016.”
“It took years, and this litigation, for DOC officials to refer Ms. Clark to see someone with experience and expertise in treating gender dysphoria,” the judge wrote. “It took over ten months after her self-castration attempt to receive any care aside from a referral to a mental health provider that had no experience or expertise in treating patients with gender dysphoria.
“Then, when she received some treatment in the form of hormone therapy, the DOC failed to follow the medical protocol prescribed by that specialist and ignored multiple test results which reflected the increasing need to follow the prescribed protocol.”
“When eventually Ms. Clark was referred to someone with experience and expertise in treating someone with gender dysphoria, the DOC continued to fail to provide Ms. Clark with the treatment recommended by that expert. This is not adequate care.”
Newsweek reached out to lawyers for Clark and the medical providers at the Connecticut Department of Corrections via email for comment.