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Inmate one step closer to getting Va. to cover sex-change operation

9/3/2013, 1:14 p.m.
PURCELLVILLE — An inmate is one step closer getting Virginia to pay for her sex-change operation.
Ophelia Delonta

By Bre Payton

PURCELLVILLE — An inmate is one step closer getting Virginia to pay for her sex-change operation.

U.S. District Court Judge Judge James C. Turk recently ruled that Ophelia De’Lonta, a 53-year-old, pre-operative transexual, is entitled to get evaluated by a gender identity specialist of her choice.

The evaluation will determine whether the $20,000 sex-change operation is medically necessary for the inmate with a gender-identity disorder and a past history of self-castration attempts.

If the specialist decides that the sex-change operation is medically necessary and the court agrees, it will be funded by the Virginia Department of Corrections.

But De’Lonta will have to pay for the evaluation herself.

Turk told reporters that it looks to him that De’Lonta’s preferred doctor will become her expert witness for future phases of the case.

De’lonta, who was born as Michael A. Stokes, is serving a 73-year prison sentence for bank robbery.

She filed a lawsuit in 2011, claiming that preventing her from getting a sex-change procedure was cruel and unusual punishment, therefore violating the Eighth Amendment.

Turk initially dismissed the self-filed lawsuit two years ago, saying that the the DOC was adequately treating her gender identity disorder. But the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that De’Lonta is entitled to a hearing on the constitutional merits of her case.

In 2010, De’Lonta was hospitalized after a self-castration attempt. She is receiving hormone treatments, psychological counseling, and has been allowed to dress as a woman in a men’s prison, according to published reports.

A phone interview with De’Lonta has been requested and is being processed by the DOC, contingent upon De’Lonta’s acceptance of the request.

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