51-year-old Michelle-Lael Norsworthy is serving time for murder at Mule Creek State prison, a men’s facility near Sacramento, CA. She is in a man’s prison, because she was born Jeffrey Bryan Norsworthy, man. She claims to have been experiencing gender dysphoria, a psychological condition where a person is discontent with the gender they were assigned at birth, since adolescence. She realized she needed sex reassignment surgery after being diagnosed with gender identity disorder in 1999 and began taking female hormones. In an unprecedented move in California, a district court judge ruled that the state grant Norsworthy sex reassignment surgery, at the expense of taxpayers. However, the state-funded surgery all depends on Norsworthy parole hearing today. If freed, she will have to take care of the surgery.
Norsworthy’s claim was fortified by a Massachusetts judge’s decision to provide an inmate with the sex reassignment surgery, but that was overturned after appeal and the Supreme Court declined to get involved. Her surgery is set for July 1, but that is all dependent on today’s parole hearing, which has been delayed four times in six months. State officials (who are appealing the judge’s order for the surgery) claim that Norsworthy has been postponing the hearing intentionally, but her attorneys contend that she has not.
Though Norworthy’s attorney’s say the numbers are exaggerated, the sex reassignment surgery and other necessary treatments have been estimated to cost upwards of $100,000. It is believed that if Norsworthy is denied the surgery, she will experience “excruciating pain and frustration.” Some of the side effects of not completing sexual transformation can be sleeplessness, cold sweats, hypervigilance, panic attacks and mood swings. If paroled, Norsworthy would be eligible for Medi-Cal which covers sex reassignment surgery.