A woman in prison for first-degree murder since 2004 is suing the Virginia Department of Corrections for denying her a sex-change surgery.
Lisa Alane Yoakam, who was diagnosed by the prison with gender dysphoria in 2017 and now goes by Jason Yoakam, filed a complaint against the Virginia Department of Corrections for not providing mental health services or performing a bilateral double mastectomy surgery needed to complete the sex change. Yoakam has been given chest binders and hormone therapy by medical providers at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Troy, Va., since the diagnosis.
Lambda Legal, an LGBT rights legal group, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. They argue denying Yoakam the surgery violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. They also argue it violates the Americans With Disabilities Act, which forbids denying care to a person with disabilities, and the Affordable Care Act, which forbids discrimination for federally funded health care.
The binder, which Yoakam wears at all times and "sometimes is so tight that it cuts into Mr. Yoakam’s skin and causes him to bleed," has left her with "scars, rashes, and acne" as well as "infections," which is why Yoakam is pursuing the surgery, according to the complaint.
"Unless he receives chest surgery, Mr. Yoakam will have to continue to use the binder and suffer the resulting injuries," the complaint says.
There is no "Jason Yoakam" listed as an inmate at the Fluvanna Correctional Center, according to the facility's website. There is, however, a "Lisa Alane Yoakam," who is listed as a 42-year-old white female. Lisa's release date is May 23, 2022.
According to the Kingsport Times-News, Yoakam conspired with her half-sister, Tonya Lane, to murder Lane's ex-husband. The victim was reportedly developing a romantic relationship with Yoakam's ex-lover at the time.
The complaint says Yoakam since childhood "saw himself as a boy and could not understand why people would see him as a girl." The American Psychiatric Association defines gender dysphoria as "psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity."
Yoakam is not the only transgender inmate to pursue elective sex surgery. In August 2020, Adree Edmo, an inmate incarcerated in Idaho for sexually abusing a child, prevailed in a federal district and appellate court to become the first transgender inmate to receive a court-mandated sex-change surgery. Edmo was scheduled to be released in July 2021.