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Transfer to Women’s Prison Settles Formerly Male Prisoner’s GID Suit

On October 31, 2013, Oregon prison officials agreed to transfer a formerly male prisoner to a women’s prison to settle her lawsuit.

Linda Patricia Thompson suffers from Gender Identity Disorder (GID), or transsexualism, which is “a rare psychiatric disorder in which a person feels persistently uncomfortable about his or her anatomical sex, and who typically seeks medical treatment, including hormone therapy and surgery, to bring about a permanent sex change.” See: Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 114 S.Ct. 1970 (1994).

While incarcerated in Idaho, Thompson sought estrogen and transfer to a female prison. When prison officials refused, Thompson cut off his testicles, scrotum and penis with a razor blade in two separate incidents, nearly bleeding to death in the process.

“I thought she had to be nuts,” said Bruce Bistline, one of Thompson’s attorneys. “But apparently that sort of self-mutilation is not extraordinary in the transgender prison population. The level of desperation is just that high.”

Thompson brought federal suit against prison officials and they settled. See: Thompson v. Paskett, et al, USDC No. CV00-388-S-BLW (D. Id.). The terms of the settlement were sealed by a confidentiality agreement, but Thompson breached that agreement, forfeiting most of an agreed-upon monetary settlement.

“Linda decided that she wanted to get the word out,” said Lea Cooper, one of Thompson’s lawyers. “That meant more than money to her.”

Idaho prison officials agreed to transfer Thompson to the California Medical Facility, (CMF) in Vacaville, California, for treatment at a trans-prisoner clinic, run by Dr. Lori Kohler since 1999.

“As far as I know of, CMF and now CMC (California Men’s Colony) are the only two prisons in the country that actually have a physician who’s dedicated to providing good care, including cross-hormone therapies,” says Kohler.

In California prisons, Thompson received estrogen and was housed in a small prison with other transwomen and gay men, since her genitalia were not readily identifiable as male or female.

After release, Thompson committed a new crime in Washington. On the basis of her birth genitalia, she was confined in a Washington men’s facility. “What do I have to do,” asked Thompson, “start menstruating to be considered a woman?”

Eventually, Thompson landed in the Oregon prison system. Despite having female breasts, a female appearance and no male genitalia, prison officials refused to house Thompson in a women’s prison because she does not have a “penetrable vagina.”

While confined in a men’s prison, Thompson was assaulted and feared for her safety. She committed 37 disciplinary violations, including refusing to shower, to avoid general population.

Prison officials required Thompson to wear a painful sports bra to make her breasts appear smaller than they are. They also refused to allow her to wear panties or cosmetics.

In 2013, Thompson brought federal suit against Oregon prison officials, alleging that they were deliberately indifferent to her safety and GID. She also asserted conditions of confinement claim related to the denial of panties, cosmetics and the sports bra requirement.

Thompson asked the court to order prison officials to transfer her to a female prison or the Oregon State Hospital, “or in the alternative, if Defendant continues to insist Plaintiff have a penetrable vagina before transfer to a female facility, gender reassignment surgery.” She also requested the adoption of a GID policy, $100,000 in compensatory damages, attorney fees and costs.

On October 31, 2013, prison officials agreed to settle the case by: transferring Thompson to a women’s prison; excusing $2,093.22 in disciplinary fines; allowing Thompson to purchase women’s undergarments if housed in a male facility; and “adopt[ing] written policies and/or administrative rules concerning LGBT inmates that are consistent with the standards set forth in the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA)” within one year. Thompson agreed to dismiss the action “with prejudice and without costs or fees to either party.”

Portland attorney David T. Johnson, of Olsen Daines, PC, represented Thompson. See: Thompson v. Peters, USDC 2:13-cv-00094-CL (D. Or. 2013).

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Related legal cases

Thompson v. Paskett, et al.

Thompson v. Peters