Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy


Silpa Maruri


The issue of hormone therapy for transgender inmates, while seemingly limited in importance, is one that involves issues of greater importance for the transgender community. The greatest issue at the heart of the matter is the legal argument that is traditionally used to gain access to hormone therapy: the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Amendment prohibits deliberate indifference to the medical needs of inmates. Traditionally, transgender inmates have gained access to hormone therapy by appealing to the DSM-IV's classification of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) as a mental illness, and by establishing that prison officials' failure to provide hormone therapy constitutes deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. However, appeal to GID is a double-edged sword: while it allows access to hormone therapy, it does so by describing transgender individuals as somehow sick or infirm. This description is at odds with the transgender community's conceptualization of itself. This Note seeks to square the legal arguments for provision of hormone therapy to transgender inmates with the philosophical backdrop that shapes the transgender rights movement by using Plyler v. Doe as a model. This Note argues that access to hormone therapy by transgender inmates involves the intersection of a quasi-fundamental right with a quasi-suspect class. By utilizing such an argument, the transgender community is not bound by the negative expressive effect that the law may have in describing it as infirm or deficient.

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