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Rapist in Oklahoma Prison Claims Transgender Protections

 Rapist in Oklahoma Prison Claims Transgender Protections

A rapist who was convicted of abducting and repeatedly sexually assaulting a 13 year old girl in 1997 is insisting that the state of Oklahoma's Department of Corrections pay for some costs relating to gender reassignment.  Phoebe Halliwell, who until recently went by the name of Ronny Edward Darnell, has filed a suit in federal court to have the state pay for laser hair removal treatments as well as homone injections.

According to the federal lawsuit, Darnell became Halliwell after self-diagnosing with Gender Identity Disorder, in which a person's outward physical appearance does not match with the gender they identify as.  While the state of Oklahoma has paid for the continuing hormone treatment or other transgender medical care for people who were already diagnosed with GID and gender transitioning at the time when they were imprisoned, a doctor in the Department of Corrections says that such treatment would not be started by the department.

In 1997, Darnell asked for directions from a 13 year old girl from Newkirk, Oklahoma, and urged her to get into his car.  Once she got into the car, Darnell drove to several rural areas and raped the girl in each of them.  Darnell, who had been a drifter, was sentenced to 50 years in prison for one count of forcible sodomy and two counts of rape after his DNA was found to match DNA gathered in a database in Ohio.

Halliwell, who has no attorney representing her in the lawsuit, claims that being denied hormone treatment has deepened her voice and caused her anxiety and stress.  However, her claim that she “was just born in the wrong body” has attracted skepticism not only from prison officials but also from the general public.

It is unclear what Halliwell's status would be in the Oklahoma prison system if she wins her case.  For example, if Halliwell's name and gender change are approved, some worry that she could be moved into a prison population with women rather than men.

Federal courts have so far been divided about the rights of transgender inmates to receive gender reassignment assistance from the prison system.  An appeals court in Virginia recently ruled that if a prison sentence is very long, denying an inmate with genuine Gender Identity Disorder the ability to make a gender transition could violate protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

Sources: uscourts.gov, advocate.com