12 ON YOUR SIDE: Boston ruling could affect transgender case in VA

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A federal judge ordered sex change surgery for a transgender inmate in Boston.

The Massachusetts inmate was born a man - but lives as a woman, in an all male prison, serving a life sentence for killing his wife.

The judge's order is not binding on Virginia - but his bold ruling comes just when a similar case is playing out in Virginia's Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Virginia inmate Ophelia Delonta is also seeking a male-to-female sex change operation - paid for by the state.

Delonta believes she's a woman trapped in a male's body. She's maintained for years that politics is why Virginia D.O.C. won't provide her a government funded sex change surgery.

The state said she's receiving adequate medical treatment for gender identity disorder.

"Refusing to provide effective treatment for a serious medical condition serves no penological purpose. It amounts to torture. I'm being tortured because I can't receive the treatment I'm suppose to have. So, you just let me suffer," said Delonta in an interview with NBC12 on July 3.

No state wants to be the first to provide an inmate with a taxpayer funded sex change surgery.

The Boston judge included in his ruling: that Massachusetts deputy commissioner testified she would not be the first prison official to provide an inmate sex reassignment surgery.

She testified she would retire rather than obey an order from the supreme court.

Judge D.J. Wolf believes Michelle Kosilek's 8th Amendment rights regarding cruel and unusual punishment were violated by Massachusetts' D.O.C.

He writes: "Denying adequate medical care because of fear of controversy or criticism serves no penological purpose and is prohibited by the 8th Amendment."

Virginia inmate Ophelia Delonta heads to court October 24 with a recommendation from a U.VA doctor hired by the state, who said the only treatment left is surgery to complete what Ophelia started through self mutilation.

She's unsure what Virginia D.O.C. will do.

"The state never gave Ophelia Delonta an explanation as to why she wasn't evaluated for sex reassignment surgery. So, I'm not exactly sure what their explanation is for denying it to her," said Rebecca Glenberg for the ACLU.

Ophelia's attorney, Victor Glasberg said the Boston judge's ruling has positive - but limited - implications for Ophelia.

Jeff Light, with the 'DC Trans Coalition' says he's impressed by the judge's strong wording - and said the order for D.O.C. to provide the surgery makes it conceivable that it could happen here.

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