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Federal Court Rules Americans With Disabilities Act Protects Transgenders

AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

Transgender people are protected from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. 

The lawsuit, which began in 2020, centered around Kesha Williams, a biologically male transgender woman with gender dysphoria who was held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center in Virginia for six months. Williams was originally assigned to women's housing but was later moved to men's housing after prison deputies learned Williams was transgender, the ruling from the court explains. 


At the outset of her incarceration, prison deputies searched Williams, assigned her housing on the women’s side of the prison, and gave her uniforms typically provided to female inmates, including several bras and women’s underwear. Later that same day, during her preliminary medical evaluation, Williams told the prison nurse, Xin Wang, that she is transgender, suffers from gender dysphoria, and for fifteen years had received hormone medical treatment for her gender dysphoria. Williams had brought this hormone medication with her to the prison and asked Nurse Wang to retrieve it for her. Nurse Wang did not return Williams’ medicine to her; instead she instructed Williams to fill out a medical release form and indicated that prison healthcare staff would follow up with her soon. 

In response to Nurse Wang’s further questioning, Williams explained she had not undergone transfeminine bottom surgery. Because Williams retained the genitalia with which she was born, Nurse Wang labelled Williams as “male” and changed her prison records, including her housing assignment, to reflect that label. Pursuant to the prison’s policy, which provides that “[m]ale inmates shall be classified as such if they have male genitals” and “[f]emale inmates shall be classified as such if they have female genitals,”prison deputies required Williams to live on the men’s side of the facility. Deputies also required her to give up the women’s clothing she had previously received and to wear men’s clothing.


According to the ruling, Williams experienced "delays in medical treatment for her gender dysphoria, harassment by other inmates, and persistent and intentional misgendering and harassment by prison deputies," in violation of the ADA and other laws. 

Williams, who is from Maryland, has a driver's license that says "female" and had been receiving hormone treatment "in the form of a daily pill and biweekly injections" for 15 years prior to being incarcerated. 

Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote in the opinion that "a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, unlike that of 'gender identity disorder,' concerns itself primarily with distress and other disabling symptoms, rather than simply being transgender." She added that gender dysphoria has a "known physical basis." 

"Williams does not merely allege that gender dysphoria may require physical treatment such as hormone therapy; she maintains that her gender dysphoria requires it," Motz added. "Indeed, she invokes her need for hormone treatment in her complaint upwards of ten times. She explains that hormone treatment enables 'feminization and masculinization of the body.' And she alleges that without it, when the prison failed to provide this treatment, she experienced, inter alia, 'emotional, psychological, and physical distress.' These allegations suffice to raise 'the reasonable inference' that Williams' gender dysphoria results from a physical impairment."


"In sum, we hold that Williams has plausibly alleged that gender dysphoria does not fall within the ADA's exclusion for 'gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments,'" the ruling concluded. 

Townhall reported last month that a biologically male transgender prisoner in New Jersey named Demi Minor was moved to a men's prison after impregnating two female inmates. Minor's former foster mother told The New York Post that Minor is a "psychopath" using transgenderism as a "ploy" to get special treatment in prison. 

"I think all this about him being transgender is a ploy," she told The Post. "He's manipulating people to get a better situation for himself and to get attention. He's learned the language to use. He's dangerous and he's a psychopath." Minor's uncle also noted that he did not see signs of gender dysphoria throughout Minor's upbringing. 

Women's rights activist Kara Dansky said in an interview with Fox News that the incident at the women's prison in New Jersey "shoots a hole right through the trope that 'trans women are women.'"

"The state is not getting away with this by telling its residents that they are housing men in women's prisons. What are doing, of course, is they are telling the residents that they are housing so-called 'transgender women' or 'trans women' in women's prisons, suggesting that there is some sort of subcategory that is called 'transgender women' or 'trans women' and it's not true," she added. "We need to not have men being housed in women's prisons."  


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