California trans prisoner gets surgery
by Seth Hemmelgarn
An imprisoned California transgender woman has had gender-affirming surgery, making her the first trans inmate in the country to undergo the procedure while incarcerated.
In a settlement reached last August with inmate Shiloh Quine, 57, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation agreed to provide surgery and other medical care.
Quine, who's in custody at Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, California, a men's facility, has been serving a term of life without the possibility of parole since 1981 after being convicted in Los Angeles County for first-degree murder, kidnapping, and robbery.
The Oakland-based Transgender Law Center assisted Quine with her case.
In a statement released last week, TLC Executive Director Kris Hayashi said, "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 – with devastating consequences for our community. With this surgery, the state is fulfilling one part of a landmark settlement that was a victory not only for Shiloh and transgender people in prison, but for all transgender people who have ever been denied the medical care we need."
A TLC spokeswoman didn't respond to an emailed question about when the surgery took place, but several media outlets have reported on the procedure.
Quine said in a news release in August, before her surgery, "After so many years of almost giving up on myself, I will finally be liberated from the prison within a prison I felt trapped in, and feel whole, both as a woman and as a human being. I'm just overwhelmed, especially knowing that this will help so many other people. I know I can never truly make amends for what I've done in the past, but I am committed to making myself a better person, and to helping others so they don't have to struggle the way I have."
Quine is one of several people profiled in "The Women of San Quentin: Soul Murder of Transgender Women in Male Prisons," a book by Kristin Schreier Lyseggen. According to a galley of the book, Quine wrote to Lyseggen that she'd told police in 1980 "that the gun used to murder someone was hers, even though it wasn't. She was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for a murder she said she did not commit."
In an August email, CDCR spokesman Jeffrey Callison said, "The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution requires that prisons provide medically necessary treatment for inmates. CDCR evaluates every case individually and in the Quine case, every medical doctor and mental health clinician who has reviewed this case, including two independent mental health experts, determined that this surgery is medically necessary for Quine," who's also known as Rodney James.
In the settlement, the state also agreed to change its policies to allow transgender prisoners access to clothing and other items "consistent with their gender identity," and the state "also affirmed that it is revising its policies regarding transgender inmates' access to medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria, including surgery," according to TLC, which represented Quine along with pro bono counsel from the law firm of Morgan, Lewis and Bockius LLP.
The Associated Press reported that Farida Baig, the daughter of Shahid Ali Baig, Quine's victim, "objects to inmates getting taxpayer-funded surgery that is not readily available to non-criminals."
"My dad begged for his life," Farida Baig told the news organization. "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."