Former Illinois inmate will be first person in federal custody to get gender-affirming surgery

A former Illinois inmate will become the first person in federal custody to receive gender-affirming surgery.

A federal court ordered the Federal Bureau of Prisons to provide the surgery.

There are 1,200 transgender people in federal custody. This case means they too are eligible for taxpayer funded gender-affirming surgery at the cost of $30,000 to $80,000.


In this particular case, former Illinois inmate Cristina Iglesias has been petitioning for the surgery since 2016. She's been in federal custody for 28 years and is now living in a residential re-entry program. The judge ordered the Bureau of Prisons to find a specialist to perform the surgery before the end of her release this December.

The ACLU of Illinois won the ruling, citing the eighth amendment which protects prisoners from cruel and unusual punishments.

"Transgender prisoners in the federal prison system have to undergo an extraordinarily long and complicated process just to get the care that they need. Cristina spent years fighting to get the Bureau of Prisons to evaluate her for gender-affirming surgery, but for years they claimed that it wasn't medically necessary," said Josh Blecher-Cohen, attorney for ACLU of Illinois.

For citizens who are not incarcerated, private insurance companies are not required to cover the procedure, but Illinois Medicaid does.