Minnesota trans inmate sues prison after being denied ‘vaginoplasty’

In the latest sign of the times, a transgendered Minnesota inmate has filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota State Department of Corrections, alleging discrimination for not allowing sex reassignment surgery.

The inmate, 56-year-old Christina Lusk, is currently serving a sentence for felony drug abuse at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Moose Lake, Minnesota. Lusk, all appearances decidedly to the contrary, is claiming to be “socially, medically, and legally” a female, and is accusing the Department of Corrections of refusing to recognize this demonstrable fact, according to the Star Tribune.

The advocacy group Gender Justice, based in St. Paul, filed the lawsuit on Lusk’s behalf. The suit names Minnesota’s Department of Corrections, together with Commissioner Paul Schnell, Deputy Commissioner Michelle Smith, and Medical Director James Amsterdam—all of whom serve on the Department’s “transgender committee,” which is empaneled to adjudicate requests from transgendered prisoners about these matters.

The suit seeks $50,000 in damages as well as a “permanent mandatory injunction” so that Lusk might be treated as a woman and promptly removed from the male-only correctional facility. Lusk claims to have been sexually abused by other inmates, as well as experienced “discrimination” from them.

According to the Star Tribune, Lusk began receiving a course of “cross-sex hormones” in 2009. Lusk then changed his name to “Christina” in 2018, and was apparently consulting with doctors about various surgical procedures prior to his arrest in 2019. Lusk had already undergone “top surgery,” referring to the addition of breasts, and was “on the verge of scheduling” a vaginoplasty—a surgical operation whose ultimate purpose the reader can probably guess.

Reasonably, the panel’s medical consultant, James Amsterdam, concluded that Lusk had no pressing need for genital surgery, but was certainly welcome to pursue any such measures upon being released from prison. But this wasn’t satisfactory. Lusk filed a grievance with the Department of Corrections in 2019, writing: “I have been diagnosed with severe Gender Dysphoria. I have attempted suicide four times due to my severe distress caused by my GD as well as self mutilation. My mental capacity is under control, and I am able to make good decisions as far as surgery. I have letters of support from my primary physician, my gender specialist, my therapist, as well as my psychiatrist, only two letters are required for surgery but I go up and beyond what is required.”

Lusk’s lawsuit also chides the Minnesota Department of Corrections for having the temerity to place inmates in correctional facilities based on their actual genital equipment, rather than medical or legal standing. This, the lawsuit claims, is “in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the Minnesota Constitution and the Prison Rape Elimination Act.”

“Transgender people disproportionately face abuse and harassment in state institutions including jails and prisons, schools, healthcare facilities, and more,” said Jess Braverman, the legal director at Gender Justice, in a statement associated with the lawsuit.

“Every person in custody deserves to be protected from violence and harassment. We need our systems, such as the [Minnesota] Department of Corrections (DOC), to do better now to protect all vulnerable groups, including transgender people.”

For its part, the Minnesota Department of Corrections explained to the Star Tribune that it is “committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of transgender incarcerated individuals.” So, for the time being, it seems Christina Lusk is out of luck.


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Todd Jaquith


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