Ronny Darnell (also known as Phoebe Haillwell) tried for six years to obtain transgender services and treatment in the Oklahoma prison system before filing her pro se federal lawsuit. She sought treatment for her male-to-female Gender Identity Disorder [or “GID,” in the Court’s pre-DMS-V usage], including hormone replacement, access to a transgender specialist, permission to share a cell “with another transgender offender,” the “Real Life Experience of living life as a woman,” sex reassignment surgery, and other accommodations for her serious medical needs. She sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages.

Magistrate Judge Charles B. Goodwin issued a Report and Recommendation (R&R) dismissing the action under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, (“PLRA,” codified in pertinent part at 42 U .S.C. § 1997e(a)), for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, in Darnell v. Jones, 2014 WL 4792144 (W.D. Okla., Sept. 24, 2014). It was undisputed that Darnell filed multiple grievances over the years. Initially, a prison psychologist told her that “[n]o one is being treated in DOC for this,” as far as he knew, and that she was “not to ask about this again.” Her appeal to the Health Services Administrator was likewise denied. She sent a final appeal to the Oklahoma Department’s Administrative Review Authority (“ARA”), when it should have been sent to the Chief Medical Officer (“CMO”).

For the full story, access the November 2014 issue of Lesbian/Gay Law Notes.