This Is The First Trans Inmate To Get State-Funded Sex Reassignment Surgery

Photo: California Department of Corrections/AP.
In August 2015, California prison officials agreed to pay for Shiloh Heavenly Quine's sex-reassignment surgery. The 57-year-old inmate was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and robbery for ransom with no possibility of parole. According to the Associated Press, Quine underwent surgery last Friday. Her case has set precedent for transgender inmates across the country and is giving hope to many who hope to apply for sex-reassignment surgery while in the criminal justice system.

"For too long, institutions have ignored doctors and casually dismissed medically necessary and life-saving care for transgender people just because of who we are," said Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center. The organization represents Quine and other transgender inmates.

Following an operation in San Francisco, Quine was transferred to a women's prison to serve the remainder of her life sentence.

In a written statement, California corrections spokeswoman Terry Thornton noted that the state was legally required to pay for the operation: "The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that prisons provide inmates with medically necessary treatment for medical and mental health conditions, including inmates diagnosed with gender dysphoria."

Since California approved the policy, prison officials have received an influx of additional requests. So far, four of 64 have been approved.

The state's decision does not come without controversy. Farida Baig, the daughter of Quine's victim, voiced her objection to using taxpayer funds for a procedure that is cost prohibitive for non-criminals. Baig has tried unsuccessfully to block Quine's request: "It just made me dizzy and sick. I'm helping pay for his surgery; I live in California. It's kind of like a slap in the face."

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are an estimated 3,200 transgender inmates currently in the U.S. corrections system. Quine's state-funded surgery is the latest development in trans rights, following New York's issuance of an intersex birth certificate and the state of Oregon officially recognizing non-binary individuals.
Advertisement