Transgender inmate seeks favorable ruling Wednesday

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Attorneys for the transgender woman say the surgery is a medical necessity brought on by a severe case of gender identification disorder.

A favorable ruling Wednesday could make the Virginia inmate the first in the nation to have the operation on taxpayers' dime.

Sex change surgery is the preferred treatment for transgender women with severe gender identification disorder. Virginia inmate Ophelia De' Lonta has that diagnosis and has performed numerous self castration attempts.

She wants a medical evaluation for the surgery and is optimistic the appeals court panel will force Virginia D.O.C.'s hand to provide it.

"I'm here because I broke the law. I don't have a problem with that. I accept that responsibility - but, while I'm here, treat me like I'm suppose to be treated," said De' Lonta.

Ophelia De' Lonta has spent more than three decades in prison housed with men, but she believes her case will prove her medical needs are real and set a precedent.

The district judge who dismissed her original suit ruled that inmates are guaranteed only minimum care, and not preferred therapies.

The state says Ophelia is receiving adequate treatment for her disorder with hormone therapy and counseling and that sex reassignment surgery isn't the only treatment option.

"When it comes to the officials at Atmore Drive, nobody wants to make that decision because it hasn't been done before," said De' Lonta.

But, her attorneys say, politics aside, a U.Va doctor hired by the state said surgery is the next step and case law - citing Massachusetts, where a federal judge ruled that Michelle Kosilek is entitled to treatment for G.I.D. and surgery is a medical necessity.

"What I'm requesting is what should be adequate treatment. I'm not asking for nothing special."

Wednesday's hearing is about getting evaluated for the surgery.

We won't see a ruling from the court right away. Attorneys say typically, the court takes about three months to issue a written decision.

Copyright 2012 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.