- - Thursday, August 29, 2013

PURCELLVILLE, Va. — A Virginia inmate is one step closer to getting the state to pay for her sex-change operation.

U.S. District Court Judge James C. Turk ruled Wednesday that Ophelia DeLonta, a 53-year-old, preoperative transsexual, 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.

The Roanoke Times reported that Judge Turk said it looks to him as if De’Lonta’s preferred doctor will become her expert witness for future phases of the case.

De’Lonta, who was born 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.

Judge Turk initially dismissed the self-filed lawsuit two years ago, saying that the Department of Corrections 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 an Associated Press report.

A request for a phone interview with De’Lonta is being processed by the Department of Corrections.

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