Federal Judge Orders First Gender-Affirming Surgery for Transgender Prisoner in Illinois

A federal judge in Illinois ordered the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to secure a gender-affirming surgery for a transgender prison for the first time in history.

Chief Judge Nancy Rosenstengel of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois ordered the BOP on April 18 to immediately find a qualified surgeon to perform the procedure to inmate Cristina Nichole Iglesias, noting that she “is suffering from gender dysphoria.”

Iglesias, who has been imprisoned for 28 years for threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction, has fought to receive the procedure for six years, the last three of which were in courts.

Earlier in the case, BOP had sought to postpone any referral to a surgeon for months after it recommended the surgery in January, court records show.

In the ruling, Rosenstengel criticized the BOP’s handling of Iglesia’s case, comparing their “tactics” to a game of “whack-a-mole.”

Rosenstengel also ordered BOP to provide the court with weekly reports and a timeline to ensure Iglesias gets the surgery before her release in December.

“I am hopeful that I will finally get the care I need to live my life fully as the woman I am,” Iglesias sad in a statement.

“BOP has denied me gender-affirming surgery for years—and keeps raising new excuses and putting new obstacles in my way. I am grateful that the court recognized the urgency of my case and ordered BOP to act,” Iglesias further said.

The court order could pave the way for other transgender prison inmates to receive gender-affirming surgery.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, BOP has over 1,200 transgender people in its custody who have yet to receive gender-affirming surgery.

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