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Transgender Inmate Spurs Appeal as Florida Prisons Seek to Deny Her Gender Identity

| January 3, 2019

Reiyn Keohane in her Florida prisons mug shot, left, and in her Lee County mug shot from 2013, when she was arrested for attempted second degree murder. The Florida prison system still lists her as male.

Reiyn Keohane in her Florida prisons mug shot, left, and in her Lee County mug shot from 2013, when she was arrested for attempted second degree murder. The Florida prison system still lists her as male.

Attorneys for a transgender inmate and the Florida Department of Corrections are battling in a federal appeals court about whether the state’s treatment of the inmate violated her constitutional rights.


The Department of Corrections took the case to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in September after U.S. District Judge Mark Walker sided with inmate Reiyn Keohane, who contends that her rights have been violated, at least in part because she has not been allowed to wear women’s undergarments and groom as a woman.

While the department appealed Walker’s ruling, attorneys for Keohane filed a brief Wednesday that agreed the Atlanta-based court should hear oral arguments in the case.

“Important constitutional issues are implicated in the provision of medical care by prison officials who deny medically necessary care based on blanket policies barring certain care or who lack the competence to assess medical need,” Keohane’s attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and the DLA Piper law firm wrote in the brief.

Keohane has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition that involves a conflict between a person’s gender identity and the sex assigned at birth. Keohane was born a male but has identified as a female since age 8. She is serving a 15-year sentence on an attempted second-degree murder charge and is housed with male inmates at the Wakulla Correctional Institution Annex.

Walker, a Tallahassee-based federal judge, blasted the Department of Corrections in an August ruling, ordering it to allow Keohane to wear women’s undergarments and groom as a woman. Walker accused the agency of being indifferent to the needs of Keohane, who has attempted suicide, and said the state violated the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

“Defendant’s deliberate denial of care — that is, the denial of access to female clothing and grooming standards despite its knowledge of her diagnosis and her history of self-harm — has caused Ms. Keohane to continue to suffer unnecessarily and poses a substantial risk of harm to her health,” Walker wrote.

But in a brief filed at the appeals court in September, the Department of Corrections argued that it has provided treatment for Keohane’s gender dysphoria, including providing her with hormone therapy and allowing her to shower separately from male inmates. But it said department medical officials do not “believe that permitting plaintiff to grow longer hair or wear female clothing within the male prison facility are medically necessary for the treatment of plaintiff’s gender dysphoria at this time” and that such accommodations would violate prison policies.

“Keohane has made clear that the most important aspect of her gender dysphoria treatment is being viewed as an authentic woman,” the state’s brief said. “The accommodations that have been made for her all go to the heart of this. By using appropriate pronouns, FDC (the Department of Corrections) acknowledges plaintiff’s medical diagnosis. By giving her hormone therapy, her body has become more feminine. By allowing her to shower separately, FDC is making clear that it recognizes her circumstances. Although Keohane may want more, FDC is doing all that it believes it should do, with appropriate consideration given to security concerns, to treat Keohane’s dysphoria.”

But in the brief filed Wednesday, Keohane’s attorneys said the steps taken by the Department of Corrections don’t ensure constitutionally adequate treatment.

“The question is not whether her symptoms are alleviated in any way whatsoever but rather whether her medical need is being addressed to such an extent that she is no longer at substantial risk of harm,” the brief said. “As the facts … demonstrate, the care provided was not sufficient to adequately address Ms. Keohane’s dysphoria. Being forced to cut her hair short and otherwise groom as a man and wear men’s boxer shorts prevents her from living and seeing herself as a woman, causing her severe distress that cannot be alleviated without access to female undergarments and grooming standards.”

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

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17 Responses for “Transgender Inmate Spurs Appeal as Florida Prisons Seek to Deny Her Gender Identity”

  1. Richard says:

    Give “her” all of the women’s wear he needs and then let the inmates have a field day. He may want to rethink his requests.

  2. itisthe says:

    scientific evidence such as DNA may have said I was at the scene of the crime…but I identified as innocent
    the state still locked me up for 179 days. maybe ill piggy back on this guys lawsuit.

  3. thename says:

    our world is effed up

  4. Charlie says:

    You got a Penis, your a male, You got a vagina, your a woman. What is the major mal-function ?

  5. Brian says:

    Simple stuff – If a man wants the freedom to live as a woman, don’t forfeit that freedom with an attempted murder charge.

  6. C’mon man says:

    At birth you are born either a male or female no matter what you think you are or want to be. If this guy thinks he is a girl remember, he still pees standing up. Why are we catering to this violent murderer anyways.

  7. Trailer Bob says:

    Don’t attempt to kill someone and you wouldn’t have this problem.

  8. Agkistrodon says:

    Gender Dysphoria is mental illness, and SHOULD be treated as such. After all if one has a Mental illness and kills, we do NOT let them continue to kill. When you buy into one’s delusions, you only reaffirm them. If I thought I was a horse, would you saddle and ride me? No you would tell me to “seek help”.

  9. oldtimer says:

    Anyone worried about the rights of the person” He-She ” tried to kill?

  10. Concerned Citizen says:

    I’m sorry but no sympathy here.

    Since when did “I can’t figure out who I am” become a mental health issue? And why is it the states responsability and the tax payers to help this person cope?

    If you don’t want to worry about not being able to wear panties then don’t try to kill someone. When you get locked up you loose a lot of rights. And it shouldn’t be the states responsability to fix your issues.

    Finally am I missing something here? Are we now in an age where the legal system and state prison worries more about an inmate wanting to wear panties than the victim of his crime?

    Seems like inmates have more rights these days than we do.

  11. Dan Floyd says:

    How about you figure out what sex you want to be, at your expense, before you commit crimes?

  12. Really says:

    In prison born male it is what it is next

  13. HonkeyDude says:

    Ok… The above person was born with a penis. I did not read anywhere above that said person had gender reassignment surgery. So said person with a penis, has not transition their transgender, thus resulting in the penis in question exisiting at this time and transgender transformation not in existence. In conclusion to the conundrum and finding the penis in existence I find that the person in question is a male and shall be identified as such.
    I say make a alphabet prision and be done with it. So if the alphabet people (LBQT,etc….) want special treatment, and dont like what they are the can go there.

  14. Spilled perfume says:

    Stay yo aqq outta prison and you won’t have to worry about these things! Prison is punishment for breaking the law. That’s what’s wrong with the prison system. You can get whatever you want when you do time so it’s no big deal to go anymore. It should be a place you never want to be! SMH..it’s just like Romper Room.

  15. Spilled Perfume says:

    Oh you are absolutely correct…they have all kinds of rights. It would blow your mind.

  16. Bill says:

    So if a FAT person commits a crime and put in prison will they get FREE liposuction , stomach reduction and excess skin removal because they “IDENTIFY” as a skinny person???

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