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California funds 1st U.S. inmate sex reassignment surgery

This June 11, 2015, file photo provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows Shiloh Heavenly Quine. 

AP

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A 57-year-old convicted killer serving a life sentence in California became the first U.S. inmate to receive state-funded sex-reassignment surgery, the prisoner’s attorneys confirmed Friday to The Associated Press. 

California prison officials agreed in August 2015 to pay for the surgery for Shiloh Heavenly Quine, who was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery for ransom and has no possibility of parole.

Quine’s case led the state to become the first to set standards that will allow other transgender inmates to apply to receive state-funded sex-reassignment surgery. It also prompted a federal magistrate to require California to provide transgender female inmates housed in men’s facilities with more female-oriented items such as nightgowns, scarves and necklaces.

“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,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, which represents Quine and other transgender inmates.

Completion of the surgery not only fulfills a landmark legal settlement but marks a victory “for all transgender people who have ever been denied the medical care we need,” Hayashi said.

Quine will be moved to a women’s prison after the operation, which was performed at a hospital in San Francisco, her attorneys said.

Quine told a prison psychologist who recommended her for the operation that it would bring a “drastic, internal completeness.”

She expects it will end a dysfunction and depression so deep that she tried to cut and hang herself in prison five times, most recently in 2014 when she was initially told she could not have the operation.

Quine said she tried unsuccessfully to amputate her genitalia when she was about 19, three years before she went to prison and roughly the same time she tried self-medicating with illegally purchased female hormones.

She and an accomplice are serving life terms for kidnapping and fatally shooting 33-year-old Shahid Ali Baig in downtown Los Angeles in February 1980, stealing $80 and his car during a drug- and alcohol-fueled rampage.

Baig left behind two young daughters and a son.

Joyce Hayhoe, a spokeswoman for the federal court-appointed official who controls California’s prison medical care, said the cost of sex-reassignment surgeries could approach $100,000, including procedures and medications before and after the operation.

Attorneys at the Oakland-based Transgender Law Center said that figure is exaggerated.

A portion of the state’s expense will generally be reimbursed by the federal government, Hayhoe said. The percentage varies depending on individual circumstances, but it can cover up to 95 percent of allowable charges.