The past decades have witnessed a dramatic shift in the visibility, acceptance, and integration of transgender people across all aspects of culture and the law. The treatment of incarcerated transgender people is no exception. Historically, transgender people have been routinely denied access to medically necessary hormone therapy, surgery, and other gender-affirming procedures; subjected to cross-gender strip searches; and housed according to their birth sex. But these policies and practices have begun to change. State departments of corrections are now providing some, though by no means all, appropriate care to transgender people, culminating in the Ninth Circuit’s historic decision in Edmo v. Corizon, Inc. in 2019—the first circuit-level case to require a state to provide transition surgery to an incarcerated transgender person. Other state departments of corrections will surely follow, as they must under the Eighth Amendment. These momentous changes, which coincide with a broader cultural turn away from transphobia and toward a collective understanding of transgender people, have been neither swift nor easy. But they trend in one direction: toward a recognition of the rights and dignity of transgender people.
* Jennifer L. Levi, Professor of Law, Western New England University Law School.
† Kevin M. Barry, Professor of Law, Quinnipiac University School of Law. Thanks to Shannon Minter for thoughtful advice; to the Southern California Law Review staff for editorial assistance; and to Lexie Farkash for research assistance.