Moral Low Ground

Society

California Funds Convicted Killer’s Gender Reassignment Surgery

A convicted murderer serving a life sentence in a California prison became the first US inmate to receive state-funded sex reassignment surgery (SRS).

The Associated Press reports 57-year-old Shiloh Heavenly Quine, transgender woman, won the right to have SRS in August 2015 after a lengthy fight. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) spokeswoman Terry Thornton said the state was legally obligated to pay for the surgery, which was performed at an undisclosed hospital in San Francisco.

“The 8th Amendment of the US Constitution requires that prisons provide inmates with medically necessary treatment for medical and mental health conditions including inmates diagnosed with gender dysphoria,” Thornton explained in a statement. A prison psychologist who recommended the operation for Quine said the patient would experience a “drastic, internal completeness” when her genitals matched her gender identity. Quine suffered from severe depression and tried to cut or hang herself five times, most recently in 2014 when her surgery request was first rejected. She also once tried to amputate her own genitals and had been self-medicating with illegally purchased female hormones.

Quine was convicted of first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery for ransom after she and an accomplice abducted and fatally shot 33-year-old Shahid Ali Baig, a father of three, in downtown Los Angeles in February 1980. The killers, who were on a drug- and alcohol-fueled rampage, also stole the victim’s car and $80 cash.

Baig’s daughter said she is against prisoners receiving taxpayer-funded surgery that is not readily available to the general population. “My dad begged for his life,” Farida Baig, whose legal attempts to block Quine’s surgery failed, told the AP. “It just made me dizzy and sick. I’m helping pay for his surgery; I live in California. It’s kind of like a slap in the face.”

A spokesman for the federal court-appointed official who controls California’s prison medical care told the AP the total cost of Quine’s transition could run as high as $100,000. Attorneys at the Transgender Law Center, an Oakland, CA-based advocacy organization, refuted that figure.

Quine said being approved for SRS showed how society had “evolved.”

“I feel like it’s really a great thing that’s just happened,” she said in an August 2015 Transgender Law Center interview. “It shows the world is evolving, and starting to understand different viewpoints and perspectives better than in the past. People are learning to recognize the humanity in everybody. It’s been a long time coming.”

In addition to winning the right to SRS, a federal judge ruled last year that California state prisons must allow transgender inmates greater access to commissary items that are consistent with their gender identity.

Quine will be relocated to a women’s penitentiary after recovering from her surgery.

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