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California Jail Settles Gender-Identity-Disorder Discrimination Suit

by John F. Dannenberg

Orange County and its Sheriff, Michael Carona, settled a discrimination suit brought by a prisoner whom they denied treatment for Gender Identity Disorder (GID). They now provide such individuals specialized medical treatment for their disorders, educate Sheriff's staff on, and extend outreach to, the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. The settlement included a lump sum payment of $49,000.

"John Doe" was diagnosed in 1991 with GID (see: American Psychiatric Association's manual, DSM-IV 532 (4th ed. 1994)) and was under hormone therapy treatment prior to incarceration. In 1992, Doe legally and medically converted from female to male identity, after undergoing chest reconstruction surgery. For ten years, he continued testosterone therapy every 14 days. His last injection was on August 6, 2004, just prior to his jail incarceration from August 20 to October 20, 2004. During that period, he requested but was denied treatment in the Orange County Jail despite advisement from Doe's primary care physician that failure to give Doe his regular injections would have negative health consequences.

In response to his requests, jail staff humiliated Doe by telling him to change out his blues for a pink sleeveless garment in front of three pods of male prisoners, commenting, "Here comes the parade." Deputies reportedly stopped in front of Doe's cell and laughed at him, calling him a "freak," "sicko," and "that thing." They further threatened to place Doe with male prisoners so that they could see that he "really is a woman." Pending transfer, Doe was denied a room with bathroom facilities for nine hours, based upon gender discrimination. On October 20, Doe was transferred to Valley State Prison, a woman's prison, where Doe received the medically prescribed hormone treatment from the state until his release in September 2005.

Claiming to suffer lingering physical and mental health problems from the period without treatment, Doe sued Orange County and Sheriff Carona for deliberate indifference to Doe's necessary medical care, along with mental anguish from anxiety and humiliation while in the jail. Doe included a claim for insensitivity to Doe's right to be free from gender-based discrimination.

The settlement, which guaranteed Doe's anonymity, included a promise by defendants to engage in outreach to the LGBT community. The two-year agreement expressly provides for continuing education of medical staff regarding treatment of GID as well as supplementation to the jail guards' basic training course on LGBT sensitivity. While admitting no liability, on June 26, 2007, defendants agreed to settle Doe's damages claim for the total consideration of $49,000 to Doe and his attorney. See: Doe v. County of Orange, Orange County Superior Court Case No. 060005833.

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Related legal case

Doe v. County of Orange