Illinois transgender prisoner will get gender-affirming surgery

(Image by succo from Pixabay)

Cristina Nichole Iglesias will become the first person to receive gender-affirming surgery while in federal custody under a settlement agreement approved on Tuesday by a federal court in Illinois.

The settlement comes after repeated court orders for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to approve the surgery. According to a press release from the ACLU of Illinois Iglesias filed suit in 2019 after BOP repeatedly denied her requests for medically necessary gender-affirming healthcare.

“I feel so relieved,” said Iglesias after the settlement was approved. “I fought for so long to get the healthcare I need, but wasn’t sure this day would ever come. Now, the federal government has finally agreed to provide me with gender-affirming surgery”

Under the order by Chief Judge Nancy Rosenstengel in the Southern District of Illinois, BOP will provide Iglesias with vaginoplasty other medically necessary gender-affirming procedures. Because of BOP’s long delays, any surgeries that occur after she is released from BOP custody will be paid for from an escrow fund administered by a retired federal judge. Iglesias started requesting the surgery in 2016.

“This is a landmark win for Cristina,” said Joshua Blecher-Cohen, an ACLU of Illinois staff attorney, in a press release. “Under the agreement entered by the court, Cristina will be the first person to receive gender-affirming surgery from BOP. We hope this victory will pave the way for other transgender people in federal custody to get the care they need.”

Iglesias has been in federal custody for 28 years and lives in a BOP residential reentry center in Florida. BOP has known that Ms. Iglesias is transgender since she first arrived in federal custody in 1994 and identified as a woman.

As part of Tuesday’s settlement agreement, BOP will pay Ms. Iglesias’s attorney’s fees. Ms. Iglesias is represented by a legal team that includes counsel from the ACLU of Illinois, the American Civil Liberties Union, Winston & Strawn LLP, and Feirich/Mager/Green/Ryan.