Inmate demands taxpayers cover sex-change surgery
Becky Yeh - OneNewsNow California correspondent - 4/27/2011 4:00:00 AM
A 42-year-old male prisoner who identifies himself as a female is requesting that the State of California pay for his sex-change operation.
Thomas Strawn -- who goes by the name "Lyralisa Stevens" -- is a prisoner serving 50 years to life for shooting a woman to death in an argument concerning clothes. According to the Los Angeles Times, Strawn is among 300+ inmates in the California prison system who have been diagnosed with "gender-identity disorder." Since his incarceration in 2003, the prison has been providing Strawn with female hormones at a cost of about $1,000 per year.
Now Strawn, who entered prison with breast and hip enhancements, has filed a lawsuit asking that the state cover the costs to surgically remove his male genitalia -- an operation that could cost from $15,000 to $50,000, says the Times -- because of harassment from other prisoners.
Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, tells OneNewsNow that Strawn's desire for a sex-change is a "psychological condition."
"The medical treatment of a sex-change 'surgery' is very controversial," the attorney explains. "It is not recognized and accepted by all psychological practitioners. The bottom line is, he's a man -- and if he thinks he's a woman, then that's something that we the taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for."
Strawn argues that the surgical procedure is necessary to protect him from being raped and assaulted by other male prisoners, and he wants the surgery so he can be placed in a women's institution. Dacus points out that the average citizen does not have the right to a state-funded sex-change operation -- and prisoners, he says, should not be allowed to have more rights than the taxpayer.
"To think that prisoners behind bars should have more rights and more privileges for a controversial and very expensive surgery that taxpayers have to pay for, I think is a clear breach of trust to the voters and the taxpayers," states Dacus.
If the court rules in favor of Strawn, California would be the first in the country to provide gender-altering surgery for inmates. Judges in the state have ruled in favor of transgender inmates in the past, and Dacus fears liberal judges may carve out new rules giving special privileges to inmates.