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August 22, 2018

Federal court found it unconstitutional to deny social transition as part of medically necessary care for a transgender inmate

TALLAHASSEE, FL – The federal court in Tallahassee today ruled in favor of Reiyn Keohane, a transgender woman currently incarcerated at the Walton Correctional Institution. The ruling responds to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Florida, and international law firm DLA Piper after Ms. Keohane’s requests for treatment were repeatedly denied by the Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) for over two years. Ms. Keohane had been denied hormone therapy and other medically necessary treatment for her gender dysphoria by the DOC. Following the filing of the lawsuit, the DOC began providing her with hormone therapy, but it refused to let her dress and groom as female, as other female inmates can.

Prior to entering DOC custody, Ms. Keohane, now 24, had been living as a woman for several years and had changed her name and begun hormone therapy. After arriving in DOC custody in July 2014, Ms. Keohane made clear to DOC officials that she needed to continue her treatment for her gender dysphoria, which included both hormone therapy and the ability to groom and dress consistent with her female gender identity. DOC staff told her that she would never receive hormone therapy while incarcerated; her female clothing items were confiscated; her hair was forcibly shaved; and her numerous grievances were rejected.

Today’s ruling holds that it is medically necessary for Ms. Keohane to be able to socially transition in prison, in that she must be permitted access to the same clothing and grooming standards as other female inmates.

Responding to the decision, ACLU of Florida staff attorney Daniel Tilley stated:

“We are thrilled that the Court has ruled that a prisoner with gender dysphoria must be afforded appropriate treatment, including hormone therapy and the ability to dress and groom in accordance with her gender identity. Our client Reiyn has fought the DOC tooth and nail for years, and they have forcefully resisted providing her with treatment for her gender dysphoria every step of the way. After today, the DOC will no longer be able to subject her to forced buzz cuts or confiscate her bras and underpants. And her hormone therapy will continue. Today is a great day for our client, and we celebrate with her.”

Leslie Cooper, deputy legal director with the ACLU’s LGBT Project, added:

“In today’s ruling, the Court said that a prison may not force a transgender woman with gender dysphoria to live as a man and recognized that doing so puts her at risk of serious psychological harm. Allowing Ms. Keohane to dress and groom according to the same standards applied to other incarcerated women follows the practices of major prison systems across the country. Prisons and jails across the country that have fallen behind should take note of today’s ruling and reform their policies. Litigation is wholly unnecessary if prisons and jails simply do the right thing.”

The court’s ruling is available here:

More information about this case here: