The state Corrections Department provides cross-gender hormones to two of the nearly 25,000 inmates serving time in Oklahoma prisons.
Department spokesman Jerry Massie said the state prison system will provide such hormones “when it's medically appropriate,” but that such cases are rare.
The department is being sued by a male inmate who wants hormones, laser hair removal, counseling and eventually a sex-change operation as treatment for gender identity disorder, with which the inmate claims to be afflicted.
Ronny Darnell, a convicted rapist serving a lengthy sentence at James Crabtree Correctional Center, filed the lawsuit against the state Corrections Department in 2012, claiming he is being punished in a cruel and unusual fashion because the state agency won't treat his condition.
Gender identity disorder is characterized by an overwhelming sense by those afflicted that they would be happier if they were the opposite sex. Darnell is not being treated by prison doctors for the disorder, which is commonly referred to as GID.
“There's only one official GID offender,” Massie said. “On this particular person ... they had had some procedures done prior to incarceration, so it's medically appropriate to prescribe the hormones.”
Massie said the other inmate is receiving cross-gender hormones “for a medical issue not related to GID.”
The hormones, which Massie did not name, range in price. The monthly prescription for one of the inmates is $158.73. The other's is only $3.73 per month.
What Darnell is wanting would likely cost more than what the department is paying now.
In a court filing, the 44-year-old inmate claims that he is deeply depressed and has tried to castrate himself multiple times while behind bars.
“They are denying me any kind of medical treatment at all for my serious medical need,” Darnell wrote in the suit. “I am a female not a male. I was just born in the wrong body.”
The inmate wrote that being denied hormone treatment “has changed me in ways I do not like.”
“It has deepened my voice to sound like a man,” Darnell wrote. “It puts me into a great depression and gives me anxiety attacks on a daily basis.”
Darnell's lawsuit is pending in federal court. He has no lawyer but recently asked a judge to appoint one to his case, records show.
Some states pay
Whether Darnell was receiving treatment before entering prison may not matter — if the court looks to rulings in similar cases.
In July 2007, a federal judge in Idaho ordered the state to provide hormone therapy to a male inmate who described himself as a woman trapped in a man's body.
Nearly three years later, a federal judge in Wisconsin struck down a state law that prohibited the use of taxpayer money to pay for inmates' hormone therapy. The decision was upheld by a federal appeals court judge.
More recently, a federal judge in Massachusetts ordered the state's prison system to pay for a gender reassignment operation for convicted murderer Michelle Kosilek, a decision the state has appealed.
It is thought to be the first time a judge has ordered the surgery as a remedy to gender identity disorder.