Judge deliberating on state-paid surgery for transgender inmate

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A U.S. District Court judge is considering the latest attempt by a transgender female prisoner to get a complete sex change - on taxpayers' dime.

Ophelia De'Lonta, born Michael Stokes, has 'gender identification disorder' and believes she's a woman, trapped in a man's body.

She was convicted 33 years ago of three bank robberies and says she did it to get money to pay for a sex change surgery.

She says, she has uncontrollable urges to self castrate, and because of her disorder, she has mutilated herself many times over the years - coming close to dying.

Lawyers for De'Lonta want U.S. District Judge James Turk to order the Virginia Department of Corrections to do two things.

First, she wants two evaluations by G.I.D. specialists. Her attorneys filed a preliminary injunction, asking the judge to order prison officials to provide her with a "readiness" evaluation done by a competent specialist to determine whether she's a candidate for the surgery.

She also wants to choose her own doctor to perform a second readiness evaluation, which she would pay for herself, to help her prepare for litigation.

I talked with Ophelia De'Lonta by phone about her latest legal fight for a sex change. The judge did not rule today.

"I'm optimistic about it, but at the same time, I'm also cautious, because even though the judge may tell the correction department 'you have to do this,' there's some kind of excuse they would use to prolong and linger," said De'Lonta.

According to court papers, state officials argue De'Lonta is not a candidate for the exam. They say she suffers from borderline personality disorder and that's why she self mutilates. They also claim De'Lonta isn't meaningfully participating in therapy.

We'll let you know when the court issues a ruling. Meantime, a legal victory is likely Ophelia De'Lonta's only way to have the sex change surgery. She has more than 40 years left to serve on prison sentence.

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