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PILP Client Becomes First Person in DOC Custody to Receive Gender-Affirming Surgery

After five years of advocacy, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project (PILP) is pleased to announce that their client has become the first person in Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) custody to receive gender-affirming surgery. The client, Mx. Doe, first became a client of PILP in 2017 when they were one of the first individuals to begin receiving testosterone at SCI Cambridge Springs and experienced numerous issues with the provision and dosage of the medication.

“This gender-affirming surgery was essential for our client’s well-being and is a historic step forward for transgender people in Pennsylvania’s prisons and jails,” said Alexandra Morgan-Kurtz. “As a result of the DOC's previous failure to provide Mx. Doe with consistent and sufficient care, their gender dysphoria had worsened, culminating in an incident of self-mutilation.”

Despite incidents of self-mutilation and the medical need for gender-affirming surgeries, DOC previously denied surgery for Mx. Doe, and even access to doctors trained in providing care for gender dysphoria. The Pennsylvania DOC has a statewide policy that requires all requests for gender-affirming surgery to be approved by a committee of high-level officials at the central office who have had no contact with the patient.

Prior to the 2020 lawsuit, Doe v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, 1:20-cv-0023 (WD PA), which alleges violations of the Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care, the Fourteenth Amendment right to privacy, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, the DOC had never approved a request for any form of gender-affirming surgery.

“Even though I know I’m going to have to face abundant backlash on this, no one can take this from me, said Mx. Doe, in a letter written to PILP following the surgery. “When I am able to find a mirror, I know that it will finally be me who will be looking back.”

The lawsuit continues for damages, as well as further injunctive relief to ensure that Mx. Doe has ongoing care for their gender dysphoria.

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