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ACLU sues Florida over alleged failure to treat transgender woman

By Andrew V. Pestano
ACLU sues Florida over alleged failure to treat transgender woman
Florida's Department of Corrections is being accused in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of failing to provide medical treatment to a 22-year-old transgender woman who has been living as a female since she was 14. File Photo by f11photo/Shutterstock

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Aug. 16 (UPI) -- The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections, accusing a state men's prison of refusing to provide medical treatment to a transgender woman.

Reiyn Keohane, 22, has been living as a female since she was 14 years old and began hormone therapy at the age of 19, the ACLU of Florida said in a statement. While facing an attempted murder charge in 2013, Keohane was refused the ability to continue her hormone therapy by the Lee County Jail, the ACLU writes.

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"Keohane accepted a plea deal for the charge in 2014 with the understanding that she would be allowed to return to her hormone therapy after being transferred to DOC custody. However, she has been repeatedly denied this treatment since her transfer," the ACLU said.

The ACLU said Keohane told DOC officials she needed to continue her treatment for gender dysphoria -- the treatment being both hormone therapy and the ability to groom and attire herself as female.

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"She has had female clothing items confiscated. She has filed numerous grievances to restore her treatment, but has been repeatedly denied," the ACLU writes.

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Keohane wrote a guest blog post for the ACLU in which she describes her past years under the care of the Florida prison system.

"In the years I have been incarcerated, I have been made to endure more cruelty by the State of Florida than I ever imagined the government could commit. I am a transgender woman -- but to the classification officers there is no such thing," Keohane writes. "I have been forced to strip with men, and been slapped and hit for telling the officers in charge of the search that the rules say I must be searched separately. I have been handcuffed, thrown to the ground, and held down so officers could shave my head. I have been called a punk, a sissy, and a [explicit]; I have been beaten while handcuffed for asking to see mental health professionals."

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The ACLU is asking the Tallahassee Division of the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Florida to find the Florida DOC's alleged denial of treatment for Keohane's gender dysphoria as a violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The lawsuit also asks the court to impose a permanent injuction that will force the DOC to allow Keohane to receive treatment.

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"As a result of being denied access to female clothing and grooming standards and of being cut off from and denied hormone therapy by DOC officials ... plaintiff has suffered severe psychological distress and physical harm, including a suicide attempt and an attempt to self-castrate," the lawsuit said.

ACLU of Florida - DoC Lawsuit

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