Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled that the Wisconsin Department of Corrections cannot deny transgender surgery to a man convicted of raping his 10-year-old daughter. The ruling also means Wisconsin will put the man in a women’s prison.
U.S. District Judge James Peterson approved the request of Mark Allen Campbell, a 49-year-old Wisconsin man who identifies as female and goes by the name “Nicole Rose,” to undergo transgender surgery at taxpayer expense, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. Campbell has identified as female since 2013, when he first requested the operation.
The Journal-Sentinel mentioned that Campbell began serving a 34-year prison sentence in 2007 for the sexual assault of a child. The paper did not mention the exact allegations that led to his conviction. According to the criminal complaint, the man’s 10-year-old daughter told investigators that her father had sex with her, masturbated in front of her, used sex toys with her, and exposed her to pornography. Judge Peterson ruled that this man must be eligible to receive transgender surgery at taxpayer expense.
“The rights of transgender persons and sex reassignment surgery remain politically controversial, even outside the prison context. And some members of the public are outraged at any effort to improve the health and well being of inmates,” Peterson wrote. “But the true public interest lies in alleviating needless suffering by those who are dependent on the government for their care.”
While gender dysphoria, the persistent and painful identification with the gender opposite one’s biological sex, is real, it remains an open question as to whether or not transgender identity (with experimental hormones and surgery) is the right course of treatment for it. There is no evidence that transgender surgery improves the mental health outcomes of gender dysphoric people. Men and women who formerly identified as transgender and underwent surgery have grown to reject transgender identity and lament the damage they did to their own bodies.
Taxpayers should have a say as to whether or not they fund such purported treatments.
Campbell had sued the Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2016 after Wisconsin denied him the surgery. The inmate argued that the state violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment.
The DOC had already taken steps to alleviate Campbell’s gender dysphoria. The state allowed him to dress as a woman, receive cross-sex hormones, and get counseling at Racine Correctional Institute, the men’s prison where he resides.
The DOC claimed that Campbell met all the criteria for transgender surgery except having lived as a woman in “real life,” which the DOC said was impossible while Campbell resided in a men’s prison.
The DOC even requested that, if Peterson ordered the state to allow the surgery, he first require Campbell to live for a year at Taycheedah Correctional Institution, the state’s largest women’s prison.
“That request came as a surprise, because previously the DOC designated any inmate with a penis to a male prison, regardless of gender identity or expression,” Peterson wrote. “I decline to impose any further prerequisites on Campbell’s sex reassignment surgery; she has waited long enough.”
While Peterson’s order enables Campbell to undergo the surgery at taxpayer expense, the inmate will still have to wait. According to the judge, only one surgeon in Wisconsin is qualified to perform the operation, and that surgeon must agree the procedure is necessary. Even after the order, Campbell may have to wait a year before the operation. He suggested DOC move the convicted daughter rapist to the women’s prison in the meantime.
It remains unclear whether the DOC or Peterson acknowledged any serious concerns about placing a male rapist in a women’s prison before he undergoes surgery. If this rapist had no qualms about abusing his own daughter, what makes the authorities certain he won’t take advantage of the women in prison?
These stories are indeed tragic on many levels. Campbell’s pain may be real, but taxpayers should not be forced to fund controversial experimental procedures like this, and when authorities place a convicted male rapist in a women’s prison, that should set off alarm bells.
Unfortunately, the debate appears to take place along pro-transgender lines. The DOC already made some concessions, and Judge Peterson referred to Campbell with female pronouns, even though his genitalia — not to mention his DNA at the cellular level — is still male and males have different biochemistry than females, regardless of gender identity.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.