This article originally appeared on watchdog.org.
PURCELLVILLE ¬†‚??¬†An inmate is one step closer getting Virginia to pay for her sex-change operation.
U.S. District Court Judge Judge¬†James C. Turk¬†ruled Wednesday that¬†Ophelia De‚??Lonta, a 53-year-old, pre-operative transexual, is entitled to get evaluated by a gender identity specialist of her choice.
The evaluation will determine whether the $20,000 sex-change operation is medically necessary for the inmate with a gender-identity disorder and a past history of self-castration attempts.
If the specialist decides that the sex-change operation is medically necessary and the court agrees, it will be funded by the Virginia Department of Corrections.
But De‚??Lonta will have to pay for the evaluation herself.
Turk¬†told the¬†Roanoke Times¬†that it looks to him that De‚??Lonta‚??s preferred doctor will become her expert witness for future phases of the case.
De‚??lonta, who was born as¬†Michael A. Stokes, is serving a 73-year prison sentence for bank robbery.
She filed a lawsuit in 2011, claiming that preventing her from getting a sex-change procedure was cruel and unusual punishment, therefore violating the¬†Eighth Amendment.
Turk initially dismissed the self-filed lawsuit two years ago, saying that the the DOC was adequately treating her gender identity disorder. But the¬†4th Circuit Court of Appealsconcluded that De‚??Lonta is entitled to a hearing on the constitutional merits of her case.
In 2010, De‚??Lonta was hospitalized after a self-castration attempt. She is receiving hormone treatments, psychological counseling, and has been allowed to dress as a woman in a men‚??s prison, according to an¬†Associated Press¬†report.
Watchdog.org¬†has requested a phone interview with De‚??Lonta. The request is being processed by the DOC and is contingent upon De‚??Lonta‚??s acceptance of the request.
Contact Bre Payton at email@example.com.¬†