March 08, 2012 1:40 pm ET - by Carlos Maza
On Wednesday, Fox News invited anti-gay hate group president Tony Perkins to discuss newly released guidelines for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, which includes a policy allowing transgender detainees in immigration detention to continue hormone therapy if they had begun treatment before being taken into custody.
Perkins railed against the new rule, which he referred to as “cross-dressing as healthcare,” and condemned the measure as an unnecessary waste of taxpayer dollars:
Major medical organizations, including the American Psychological Association (APA) and World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) have explicitly recommended continuing hormone therapy for transgender detainees. Denying hormone therapy to these individuals can have severe medical and mental health consequences, including potentially fatal attempts at “autocastration.”
For that reason, a number of courts have already begun recognizing the rights of transgender inmates to continue undergoing hormone therapy while incarcerated. Last August, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that denying hormone treatment to transgender prisoners amounted to “torture” and thus violated the 8th Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
Many transgender individuals being held by ICE are detained while fleeing persecution in their home countries or after being denied asylum in the U.S. Before the release of the new guidelines, these detainees would be trapped in a “legal black hole,” facing inconsistent treatment options and frequently being subjected to the whims of potentially anti-trans ICE officials.
Moreover, the lack of standardized ICE policy concerning hormone treatment puts both transgender detainees and ICE’s legal interests at risk. As Dana O’Day-Senior wrote in Hastings Law Journal:
Without these policies in place, transgender detainees will continue to suffer uncertainty, medical neglect, unequal or arbitrary access to treatment, disparate treatment from detention facility to detention facility, and the detrimental and potentially life-endangering results of untreated GID.
Not only will transgender detainees suffer, but ICE will continue to leave themselves open to costly and potentially embarrassing Eighth Amendment claims of cruel and unusual punishment, such as they continue to face for various other types of healthcare denials. [emphasis added]
The policy isn’t unprecedented, either. As Fox’s Megyn Kelly pointed out, transgender inmates in federal prison who received treatment prior to being incarcerated have been able to continue undergoing hormone therapy since 2005. Last October, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons adopted new guidelines that would allow transgender inmates who hadn’t begun treatment before incarceration to obtain hormone therapy as well. At least eight states also maintain explicit policies providing hormone therapy to transgender prisoners.
Perkins’s attempt to depict ICE’s new policy for transgender detainees as radical or extreme is inaccurate, but – considering his history of attacking efforts to protect transgender people – it’s what you’d expect from the media sweetheart.
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