An inmate serving life without parole in a Missouri prison is suing to receive therapy for gender dysphoria disorder.
Jessica Hicklin, a 37-year-old transgender woman, has been diagnosed by multiple doctors with the disorder but has been denied access to hormone therapy to treat the condition, according to Lambda Legal, an LBGT legal organization based in New York. The organization filed the lawsuit Monday in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division.
Demoya Gordon, Hicklin’s attorney, says that Missouri’s “freeze frame” law prevents inmates from receiving hormone therapy if they had not received it prior to entering prison.
Hicklin, who is serving a sentence of life without parole at the all-male Potosi Correctional Center in Mineral Point, Missouri, was convicted of first degree murder and armed criminal action at age 16, prior to identifying as female.
“Given her background and how young she was when she entered the department, it’s highly unlikely that she would’ve been receiving hormone treatment before she entered,” Gordon says. “The facts of this case really highlight just how arbitrary and cruel a policy like this really is.”
Gordon says that without treatment, Hicklin and inmates in similar situations are at risk for numerous physical and psychological hazards.
“It puts them at significantly increased risk for depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and even attempts at carrying out surgery on themselves, which of course, puts one at risk of severe physical harm and as even potentially death,” Gordon says.
Gordon says the case also highlights the pervasiveness of discrimination against transgender people.
“It doesn’t stop at the prison or jail gate,” Gordon says. “It follows them into these facilities and makes serving out their time even harder than it would be for someone who isn’t transgender.”
Alex Smith is a health reporter at KCUR 89.3.