The Trans Woman Behind the Right to Have Surgery in Prison

In January, a California prisoner, Shiloh Quine, made headlines when she became the first prisoner to receive sex reassignment surgery.

However, her story begins much earlier and through the journey of another transgender woman, Michelle-Lael Norsworthy.

“I am so happy that she got it,” Norsworthy said of Quine. “Anybody who disagrees with an inmate getting sex reassignment surgery is saying — and a lot of trans people are against it — … that gender dysphoria is a choice, [that the surgery] is an elective or cosmetic procedure.”

Norsworthy, 53, who is now out of prison, made waves of her own when she petitioned the state to receive the surgery while she was serving time, a surgery she and medical professionals said was a medical necessity, in Norsworthy v. Beard.

However, after being denied parole five times, the state decided she was “cured” and ready to be released from prison. While she could finally say goodbye to prison life, it meant that she would no longer be getting the surgery.

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