HELENA — A convicted rapist who claims he should have been born a woman wants the state to pay for laser hair removal, hormones and counseling as part of the transition from male to female.
Other states have provided such medical care and a federal judge recently ordered the Massachusetts prison system to pay for an expensive operation that will transform a convicted murderer from a man into a woman.
What Ronny Edward Darnell's lawsuit, filed last year in federal court, will mean for Oklahoma is unclear.
Jerry Massie, spokesman for the state Corrections Department, told The Oklahoman that the agency has provided similar treatments to inmates in the past, but a handwritten note from a psychologist working at the Helena prison where Darnell is being held shows the prisoner was denied treatment.
"If the inmate had been receiving this kind of treatment on the outside . if it was medically indicated . we would provide treatment," Massie said. "I believe we've done that in the past."
Darnell, 44, an inmate at the James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena, claims to have gender identity disorder, which is characterized by an overwhelming sense by those afflicted that they would be happier if they were the opposite sex.
In his suit, the inmate claims that his constitutional rights are being violated by the state prison system. He says that by not providing him with hormone treatments, laser hair removal, counseling and assisting him with a name change, the Corrections Department is subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment.
Darnell, who was convicted in 2005 of repeatedly raping a 13-year-old girl in 1997 and sentenced to 50 years, is not seeking money and doesn't mention any surgical procedures in his handwritten suit.
He does, however, request to be seen by a "transgender specialist."
"They are denying me any kind of medical treatment at all for my serious medical need," Darnell wrote in the suit. "I am a female not a male. I was just born in the wrong body."
The inmate, who also claims he wants to change his name to Phoebe Halliwell, wrote that being denied hormone treatment "has changed me in ways I do not like."
"It has deepened my voice to sound like a man," Darnell wrote. "It puts me into a great depression and gives me anxiety attacks on a daily basis."
Darnell's lawsuit is pending in federal court. He has no lawyer.