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Transgender inmate suing officials after being put in men’s prison for drug conviction



A Minnesota transgender woman who is serving prison time on a drug charge is suing the state Department of Corrections for discrimination after she was incarcerated in a men’s facility where she has faced sexual and verbal abuse.

Christina Lusk, 56, has filed a lawsuit against the state corrections department seeking $50,000 in financial compensation because she was assigned to the men’s prison and denied gender-affirming surgery.

Lusk, who is legally recognized as a female, has asked to be moved from the men’s facility in Moose Lake to the women’s prison in Skakopee.

Lusk, of Minneapolis, came out as transgender 14 years ago, started human therapy, and legally changed her name in 2018. The following year she pleaded guilty to a felony drug possession charge.

Jess Braverman, an attorney for the group Gender Justice, which is representing Lusk along with the Minneapolis law firm of Robins Kaplan, said her client is unsafe in Moose Lake.

‘She’s a woman, and suddenly she’s placed in a men’s facility. She’s in a locked cell with a number of men, and she’s really exposed to harassment and violence in that setting,’ Braverman said.

While in prison, Lusk has also been denied gender-affirming surgery by corrections officials – despite doctors approving the procedure before she was incarcerated, the lawsuit says. She is set to be released in 2024.

Lusk has been seeking a vaginoplasty since her incarceration but DOC Medical Director James Amsterdam has determined that she should not be allowed the genital surgery whilst in prison, but ‘could pursue that after release’, according to the lawsuit.

Lusk wrote in the complaint: ‘I have been diagnosed with severe Gender Dysphoria. I have attempted suicide four times due to my severe distress caused by my GD as well as self mutilation. My mental capacity is under control, and I am able to make good decisions as far as surgery.

‘I have letters of support from my primary physician, my gender specialist, my therapist, as well as my psychiatrist, only two letters are required for surgery but I go up and beyond what is required.’

The move by the corrections department to hold Lusk in a men’s prison and deny her the surgery is unconstitutional and a violation of her human rights, according to the lawsuit.

‘Christina Lusk is recognized legally and socially as female – including by the state of Minnesota. Yet, the Minnesota DOC treats Ms Lusk as a man simply because she is transgender,’ the lawsuit states.

The suit is seeking $50,000 in compensation for Lusk and a ‘permanent mandatory injunction’ requiring that Lusk be treated as a woman by the state prison system and removed from the men’s prison in Moose Lake.

Lusk has been reprimanded for having breasts and wearing women’s clothing, yet also scolded for going without a bra while her bras were in the wash, the lawsuit contends.

Lusk filed the first of two complaints with the state Department of Human Rights in early 2020. She alleged that prison staff housed her in a room with seven men, required her to change her clothes and use the bathroom with men, and called her by her former name.

Both requests to be moved were denied without explanation, according to the suit.

The Minnesota Department of Corrections did not comment on Lusk’s lawsuit directly, but it said in a statement to Minnesota Public Radio News that it’s ‘committed to ensuring the safety and well-being’ of transgender people.

The agency said it considers accommodation for transgender inmates on a case-by-case basis.

Robins Kaplan attorney Rebecca Bact told the Star Tribune her firm is assisting Lusk because she ‘deserves proper housing, healthcare and a dignified existence free from discrimination.’

‘Transgender people disproportionately face abuse and harassment in state institutions including jails and prisons, schools, healthcare facilities, and more,’ Braverman told the newspaper.

‘Every person in custody deserves to be protected from violence and harassment,’ she continued. ‘We need our systems, such as the [Minnesota] Department of Corrections (DOC), to do better now to protect all vulnerable groups, including transgender people.’

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