A Minnesota transgender woman serving a prison sentence for drug trafficking has successfully sued the state Department of Corrections for discrimination and will be transferred to a women’s facility.
Christina Lusk, 56, will also receive $495,000 in financial compensation and vaginoplasty as she is sent to a women’s facility in Shakopee this week after alleged sexual and verbal abuse at a men’s facility.
Lusk, who is legally recognized as a woman, came out as transgender 14 years ago, started hormone therapy and legally changed her name in 2018. The following year, she pleaded guilty to a drug possession charge.
The settlement also promises that Lusk will receive more gender-affirming health care and strengthen its policies to protect transgender inmates.
“This journey has brought extreme challenges, and I have endured so much. I hope no one has to go through the same circumstances. I relied on my faith and never gave up hope. I can truly say that I am a strong, proud, transgender woman, and my name is Christina Lusk,” she said in a statement.
Christina Lusk, 56, sued the state Corrections Department for $50,000 in financial compensation because she was assigned to the men’s prison and denied surgery. gender affirmation.
Paul Schnell, Minnesota’s DOC commissioner, said the state is “constitutionally obligated” to address gender dysphoria and will do so for Lusk, according to Fox 9.
“Based on the facts of this specific case, the incarcerated person will now have access to the medical care they need, deserve, and we have a legal obligation to provide them,” he said in a statement. communicated.
A press release from the Department of Corrections on the settlement includes promises that gender nonconforming inmates will be placed in facilities that match their gender identity.
They will grant such requests “unless the requested placement poses an increased risk of physical or sexual harm to that person or to those housed in the preferred facility.”
“Everyone needs to come together in unity and embrace positive change. I believe we have taken a big step forward in empowering people to express who they really are and bring some kind of peace and happiness into their lives,’ Lusk added.
Jess Braverman, an attorney with the Gender Justice group, which represents Lusk with the Minneapolis law firm Robins Kaplan, sees the settlement as a positive step.
“Minnesota was the first state in the nation to expressly protect transgender people in our anti-discrimination laws. But sometimes you feel like you’re the last to get it right. I think that goes a long way to show that Minnesota is making progress,” she said in a statement.
“We are keeping that promise and we will give transgender people the dignity they deserve, whether they are in institutions, whether they are incarcerated or not.”
Lusk, from 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 drug possession charge.
Lusk will be sent to a women-only facility in Shakopee (pictured) this week after alleging sexual and verbal abuse at a men-only facility
Braverman had said his client was not safe in Moose Lake.
“She’s a woman, and all of a sudden she’s put 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 incarcerated, Lusk had also been denied gender-affirming surgery by corrections officials — despite doctors approving the procedure before he was incarcerated, according to the lawsuit. It should be released in 2024.
Lusk had been seeking vaginoplasty since her incarceration, but DOC medical director James Amsterdam determined that she should not be allowed to have genital surgery in prison, but “may continue 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 DG as well as self-harm. My mental capacity is under control and I am able to make good decisions regarding surgery.
“I have letters of support from my GP, my gender specialist, my therapist, as well as my psychiatrist, only two letters are needed for the surgery but I go above and beyond what is required.”
The corrections department’s decision to detain Lusk in a men’s prison and deny him the operation is unconstitutional and a violation of his human rights, according to the lawsuit.
While incarcerated, Lusk was also denied gender-affirming surgery by corrections officials — despite doctors approving the procedure before he was incarcerated, according to the lawsuit.
Lusk, who is legally recognized as a woman, asked to be moved from Moose Lake Men’s Institution (pictured) to Skakopee Women’s Prison
“Christina Lusk is legally and socially recognized as a woman – including by the state of Minnesota. Yet the Minnesota DOC treats Ms. Lusk as a man simply because she is transgender,’ the lawsuit said.
Lusk was reprimanded for having boobs and wearing women’s clothing, but also reprimanded for going braless while her bras were washed, the lawsuit alleges.
Lusk filed the first of two complaints with the state Department of Human Rights in early 2020. She alleged that prison staff put her in a room with seven men, forced her to change clothes and to use the toilet with men, and had called her by her. former name.
Both travel requests were denied without explanation, according to the lawsuit.
Robins Kaplan’s lawyer, Rebecca Bact, told the Star Tribune that her company was helping Lusk because she “deserved decent housing, healthcare and a dignified existence free from discrimination”.
“Transgender people disproportionately face abuse and harassment in public institutions, including jails and jails, schools, health care facilities, and more,” Braverman told the newspaper.
“Everyone detained deserves protection 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.