Should prisoners receive sex-change surgery at taxpayers’ expense?

2 Mar

Whether or not prison inmates should receive gender reassignment surgery (GRS) at taxpayers expense is a much simpler question to answer than many would think. That answer is yes. That may shock, enrage, and befuddle many people but it is the correct answer.

Often times people hearing that positive response jump up on their soapbox and begin spouting off one argument after another against this stance which are in all honesty irrelevant. The reasons this happens so often is people do not understand the reasons behind why this is necessary on a multitude of levels.

 For starters Gender Identity Disorder (GID- Also known as transsexualism and Harry Benjamin’s Syndrome) is a congenital medical condition recognized in the DSMIV as such. In almost every major industrialized nation and other nations with less than stellar records on human rights like Iran this is easily and openly accepted. In the U.S. however it is a hot button topic based on the view of transsexualism from the “Moral Christian Conservatives”, and more directly insurance companies failure to recognize it is a true and treatable condition, and not a fetish or an action carried out on a whim.

The only known treatment to successfully treat transsexualism is GRS. Nothing from electroshock therapy, hypnosis, anti-psychotic drugs, psychiatry, aversion behavior therapy, or prayer, has ever successfully treated this condition. Without treatment the person suffering from GID often ends up suicidal and at times does act out in anti social ways due to the long term suppression of something so basic as individual identity.

Unlike what many people think GRS is only considered an elective procedure in the U.S. which is a break from the major (And most minor) European and Asian nations. Even our neighbor to the north, Canada, recognizes this as a necessary procedure to meet medical needs including the incarcerated. The biggest reason the U.S. does not recognize this as such is because the procedure can be expensive and insurance companies simply do not want to foot the bill for such treatment as part of a basic coverage agreement. Even insures that do offer some coverage for this condition will only do so through large corporations (At increased blanket premiums) and not for individuals. Money is the usual suspect in cases like this.

There are many that ask why any person in prison much less a person on death row for a heinous crime would deserve such treatment. Quite simply they are wards of the state or in some

cases federal government when they are incarcerated. It is then the responsibility of that governing agency to care for these inmates. Cancer patients receive chemotherapy and diabetics get insulin. Psychological counseling or any form of medical care for a legitimate problem is available except transsexualism. In doing so the limited rights they do have are violated. They are put at risk and often subjected to treatment far harsher than the penalty of their crime deserves. Transsexuals in prison whom are placed in general population are the most common culprits of physical and sexual abuse. As such most eventually wind up in solitary confinement. Furthermore these are people that have identified to the opposite gender their whole life. Being placed in such an environment based on a gender they do not identify to is in no way conducive to the rehabilitative process our prisons are so fond of claiming exists when it comes time to receive funding.

 While many people are quick to point out one isolated case of a transsexual prisoner demanding medical treatment for his condition there are literally a few thousand more in the same boat. We hear of the one case of a murderer on death row but not the countless others incarcerated on lesser offenses. Why is that? It doesn’t make for sensationalistic enough reporting. Stories of a murderer sell more copy than a car thief or habitual offender on charges of solicitation. You have to look at the forest and not just the biggest tree to actually get a true view of what is going on. Quite simply these people are being denied their rights.

While I am sorry there are good hard working honest people in this country that cannot afford medical care it is irrelevant to point that out as an argument against providing prisoners medical care. We as a society set this penal system up, and we as a society must abide by it. To deny one group treatment opens the door to denying further groups treatment. One day we may find ourselves saying it’s okay to deny chemotherapy as “Inmate X” is a bad guy and will die soon anyway. Do we want to take on the Scrooge like mantra of “Better to decrease the surplus population.” Is that the way we as a nation wish to be viewed?

As a human being I find there are crimes so despicable that in all honesty I wouldn’t mind seeing the perpetrators of those acts die. As a society there are enough people that feel that way that we have the death penalty in many states. Those sentences are carried out through

the judicial process. It is made clear beyond the shadow of a doubt the punishment fits the crime in the eyes of a jury of the convicts peers. What is being done to transsexuals in prison being denied medical care via hormonal treatment and/or GRS is a death sentence as well. The difference is the punishment of withholding medical care doesn’t fit the crime and there is no due process. Doing so sends the message that it is okay for us to commit crimes against others if we simply don’t agree with the. That is a hate crime by the way to the letter of the laws definition and is punishable by up to seven years in a federal penitentiary. Do two wrongs ever make a right? I urge you again to remember this affects far more people than one twisted individual as many arguing in favor of the negative side of this issue portray.

 We don’t have to like the person or what they did to land in prison, but we do have to treat them as human beings still. That includes the right to medical treatment. Remember this, if we deny for one group based on gender identity, next it may be based on race, religion, age, or any imaginable aspect of being a human. Denial of GRS goes further than it’s affect on transsexual prisoners alone, it opens the door to potentially effecting all incarcerated persons medical care in a very negative manner.
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