ophelia de'lonta, transgender, sexual reassignment surgery, penis, razor, gender identity disorder

Transgender Inmate Denied Sex-Change; Attempts Self-Castration With Razor

ophelia de'lonta, transgender, sexual reassignment surgery, penis, razor, gender identity disorder
Ophelia De'lonta

50-year-old Ophelia De’lonta underwent emergency surgery resulting in 17 stitches to reattach her penis after a denial from the Virginia Department of Corrections in response to her request for sexual reassignment surgery led her to use three disposable razors to do the job herself.

If you think De’lonta’s story sounds unbelievable, consider this: 12 other inmates in Idaho, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, Oregon, Kentucky and North Carolina have suffered nearly identical experiences. In many states, transgender inmates have won access to hormonal therapy through lawsuits, but surgeries reassigning one’s genitals to their gender identity remain elusive.

SFGate reports:

Months after the October castration attempt, De’lonta filed a federal lawsuit Friday claiming the state has failed its duty to provide adequate medical care because it won’t give her the operation. She says the surgery is needed to treat her gender identity disorder, a mental illness in which people believe they were born the wrong gender.

If she wins, De’lonta would be the nation’s first inmate to receive a state-funded sex change operation. Similar lawsuits have failed in a handful of other states, and lawmakers in some states are trying to ban the use of taxpayer money for the operations.

If she loses, she says she will continue to try self-surgery — acknowledging another attempt could kill her.

“That’s a possibility,” the 50-year-old said during a recent prison interview, pausing then smiling contently. “But at the end I would have peace.

27,000 Americans have gender identity disorder, resulting in 500-750 sexual reassignment surgeries each year. For every person with access to these oftentimes life-saving treatments, many are forced to go without.

Sexual reassignment surgeries are still widely viewed as expensive vanity projects for the least vocal letter in the LGBT community, and not seen as the absolute medical necessity that they are. Nobody chops off their own penis in the face of potential death on a whim. De’lonta, like thousands of others, was driven to action because she suffers from an unmet medical need.

“Everybody has the right to have their health care needs met, whether they are in prison or out on the streets. People in the prisons who have bad hearts, hips or knees have surgery to repair those things,” Michelle Kosilek told The Associated Press in a recent phone interview from a state prison in Norfolk, Mass.

“My medical needs are no less important or more important than the person in the cell next to me.”

Federal courts have said prisons must provide adequate medical care, and that they must protect inmates from themselves. But correctional officials and lawmakers balk at using taxpayer money for sex-change operations that can cost up to $20,000.

A Massachusetts bill to ban the use of public funds for sex change procedures, hormones and other treatments has been before a joint committee since January. Wisconsin lawmakers passed the Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act in 2006, but a federal judge declared it unconstitutional last year. The state appealed, and a decision is expected soon.

De’lonta’s self-castration attempt took three hours and was brought on after a guard referred to her as a man, despite a court order requiring officers to address her as a woman. The entire story is incredibly interesting, and well worth a read in its entirety. You can finish Ophelia De’lonta’s story at SFGate HERE.

Do you think prisoners should have access to sexual reassignment surgery?

  • I have to be a good person.. work hard and pay for my own.. and btw, stay out of trouble.  So, why should she be any different?  Boy, girl, naked squirrel… if you did the crime, you do the time and while you are doing time, your life stops… that’s the punishment.  I honestly don’t see why she should get something we all are working hard for – for free because she screwed up and landed in jail.  No, in other words, she should do her time and when she gets out, reach out, get a job and pay for it herself.  It’s a major accomplishment when any of us can finally afford it, why should she get it for doing a crime. 

  •  agreed… this isn’t about a “transgender” issue… it’s about a criminal that is fed up with time spent not able to advance herself where she feels she needs to… simply because of her situation doesn’t mean she should get it when she wants it and for free.

  • I believe that they should have access to the surgery, as long as the money isn’t coming out of my pocket. I’m pissed off that inmates have wronged our society, and yet we’re providing for them? America has got itself twisted I think. haha

    I feel like anyone in prison, ANYONE, is there for a reason and should be stripped of a lot of freedoms and such. So, It’s hard to really sympathize with someone behind bars. Ophelia’s story is unfortunate, and I hope they can find a way to resolve it for her.

  • I agree Nic… but I wish they were cosmetic.  Ever looked down at your penis and it make you physically sick?  I know people that have… but again, when it comes to getting this surgery for free… simply because you have wronged society… no way Jose. 

  • BTW, to anyone that even cares, I feel this way, AND I am transgender.  Pre op.  Because I, can not afford it at this time, but I continue to bust my ass… make LEGAL money and focus for my future.  I will receive my surgeries… but only because I WORKED FOR IT!  Even my insurance… that I PAY FOR.. won’t help.  It’s about me… me wanting to be me, the way I see myself is how I want to in the mirror.  Okay.. enough rant.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely not. You’re in prison. Your gender doesn’t matter. You are a NUMBER, not a man or a woman and hardly even a human being. Physical surgery for mental illness is ridiculous anyway…if it’s a mental illness, you need mental health treatment, not surgery to chop off your penis. I don’t know as much as I should and transgendered people, but I’m pretty sure it’s not considered a mental illness (anymore, at least). Yes it’s in their mind and soul and etc. etc., but I’ve never heard someone I know who was trans refer to it as an illness! Besides she made it this far in life with a penis, she can make it through her prison sentance. Then she’s free to do whatever she wants when she gets out…and she can damn well pay for it herself.

  • Anonymous

    there is no way on God’s green earth that this person should get her surgery off of the taxpayers dollar….and with her threatening to try to mutilate herself again I would think that maybe she feels life in the nuthouse is better than in the big house. I completely understand the want of the surgery….even the need of the surgery……but if you commit a crime and you are caught and sentenced then you must do the time if you do the crime. No special rights or privileges.

  • Judy Lawson

    I am truly sorry that these individuals are suffering with gender identity issues. But they are criminals first. They’ve been tried and convicted of a crime and therefore have relinquished their rights. And furthermore, anyone who is deranged enough to attempt the removal of his/her own penis isn’t READY for sexual reassignment surgery yet. Mental illness is the first reason NOT to go through with such a monumental procedure.

  • Nicolas Ryan Boley

    they should NOT be able to get free operations. that are essentially cosmetic. that is nonsense.

  • Chrissy Tepley

    I agree on not giving her any money for the operation, but in saying that, nobody knows what she did to end up in jail, maybe she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe shes outspoken and it gets her into trouble? I’m being generous of course, all I know is I got arrested from a dirty cop trying to be cool, and I can honestly say, that not everyone in prison deserves it. Then again maybe she does. At the same time, it is my biggest fear to actually end up in prison(I didn’t the first time thankfully the court was on my side) Maybe she doesn’t want to be in a man’s prison, hell I’d chop it off too if they tried to put me in jail.

  • Katie White

    No way should our tax dollars go towards this surgery for her!
    I agree with other comments on here, why should she get this surgery for free because she’s in jail?  I’d rather my tax dollars go towards trans people who need the surgery, but can’t afford it and are not locked up.

  • Erin Williams

    I have seen this story in several places around the internet, and I feel that, while it is newsworthy in queer circles, we should not be made to feel sorry for a criminal. There are so many transgendered people who will never be able to afford sex reassignment surgery, and yet we, as taxpaying Americans, are asked to give that opportunity to a criminal? A criminal who seems to have deep-seated gender disphoria? Yes, she needs counseling, and possibly medication, but if she wants surgery, she has to earn it legally.

  • Erin Williams

    In the text of the original article, it is stated that she was imprisoned for a series of robberies she committed in order to get money for her surgery.

  • Ashlei Kennybrew

    It should not be for free, especially since she robbed people, so she could get the surgery…She should be allowed to work in order to get the surgery yes! I think that prisoners should be just as miserable as us by working for lower wages….bahahahaha!! && by the way misinterpreting being trangender as a mental illness is just unfair as calling homosexuals people with mental illnesses. You shall never know how it feels to hate the body you were born in because your mind & soul is of the opposite sex. you do not know how it feels to physically look like a woman but still have a penis that still functions & makes you throw up every time you look at it…Like of course minor & major gender reassignment surgery is a cosmetic issue bc you can go through your life as a man even with a vagina & breasts. But those are constant reminders that you weren’t born how you feel & that they world will always look at you as your former gender or may look at you confused. I think the worst thing about being transgender is when you tell anyone that you are transgender you never will be known as a regular man or woman, you will always be known as a trans man/woman or that girl that used to be a man or that man that used to be a woman….
    By the way I am not transgender, I am just a simple lesbian.

  • I think this is a major reason why we need national health insurance in this country. I don’t think we know this woman’s story well enough to make such a black and white decision on her fate. Overall this is just one small piece of a larger issue this country is facing. 

  • That is slightly a bit of a backwards view though. You can’t have it both ways. It either is a serious mental disorder/physical condition that needs to be addressed and treated or its cosmetic. If she was a schizophrenic or manic depression and needed to be treated with anti-psychotics or other psychotropics would you deny her this just because it comes from the tax payers dollar and she’s in prison. Because I can tell you right now that this country spends millions every year on treating inmates with depression and anxiety and other pressing mental disorders. 
    Does it seem unfair if she were to be automatically awarded this surgery just for being in prison. Yes, of course, but you as a transgendered person who is a civilian knows the many medical procedures and treatments and counseling sessions etc that are needed to even begin to start the transition. And its not easy and it takes quite a long time. 
    They broke our laws yes but it is our responsibility to maintain and preserve their physical and mental health. 

  • Anonymous

    I am a preoperative male-to-female transsexual and I say: “No hwayyy in hell, Coco Chanel!” Like most other law abiding transsexuals I intend to pay for my switcheroo the honest way: by legally earning the money (unless before then I happen to meet someone with cash to burn who offers to cover it for me.) But free to convicted criminals? Absolutely NOT! I don’t care what they be in there for or even if they be innocent and if the latter be indeed the case then let ’em out so they can earn the money. Lastly, consider that the very last thing any penal system should do is give anybody incentive to get busted and yes, there are people who would intentionally do a crime and get caught if they knew they would only have to do six-to-eight (or whatever) yet get a free all expense paid trip to vaginoplasty land! Heck, probability alone says there is somewhere somebody who would be willing to do thirty years as long as they could go in with a dick and come out as a chick! 

  • Anonymous

     Having a body that reflects your gender is a privilege that cis people get to enjoy from birth, but one that is denied trans people. It shouldn’t be this way. Having a body that reflects your gender should not be a privilege, but a right. I don’t “deserve” my hormones and surgeries any more than inmates do, just like her cis inmates don’t somehow “deserve” their hormones and the correct way their bodies turned out. It isn’t about good behavior. If it was, then cis inmates would have to take opposite hormones and have their genitals changed.