Late last month, a court sided with Transgender Law Center, co-counsel Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, and trailblazing TLC client and advocate Shiloh Quine, ruling that transgender people should be able to access gendered items that are available to others in prison. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), citing escape concerns among others, previously denied transgender women several items – including nightgowns, hair brushes and clips, robes, and earrings –that are available to other women in prison. The Court also ruled that transgender men must be given access to chest binders.
Transgender Law Center’s Detention Project Director Flor Bermudez said, “We are pleased that the court saw through CDCR’s absurd argument that access to basic items like nightgowns and hair clips pose some sort of escape risk in a men’s facility, but not in a women’s facility. The court also made clear that gender-restricted items have to be available to transgender and gender nonconforming people who have some symptoms of gender dysphoria but who don’t have an official diagnosis. Significantly, the court rejected the prison system’s argument that it should have wide leeway to engage in sex discrimination, holding that under the Constitution, restrictions in prisons based on gender are subject to very serious scrutiny, and the state must show an ‘exceedingly persuasive justification’ before they can be upheld. The court held that the state did not meet this burden.”
Shiloh Quine, a transgender woman who was housed in a men’s facility, won an historic settlement in 2015 granting her access to appropriate medical care and housing. At the beginning of this year, she became the first person in the country to receive gender confirmation surgery while incarcerated, and she has since been transferred to a women’s facility. As part of her settlement, CDCR agreed to revise its policies on transgender people’s access to gendered items that are available to other men and women in prison. This recent ruling was an enforcement of that settlement, after CDCR tried to go back on their agreement, claiming that certain items like nightgowns posed an escape risk.