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'Jesse' Vroegh and his 'wife' Jackie
Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

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‘Transgender’ prison nurse sues Iowa for right to use men’s showers

Fr. Mark Hodges Fr. Mark Hodges

DES MOINES, Iowa, September 5, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A "transgender" prison nurse is suing the state of Iowa for not letting her shower, change, or use the restroom with men.

Thirty-four-year-old “Jesse” Vroegh, a biological female who claims to be male, says her “Constitutional right to equal protection” was violated when the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville had her use a private locker room and bathroom to accommodate her transgenderism.  

She also claims she was denied “medically necessary surgery” when the facility’s insurance provider did not pay for breast amputation.

Vroegh began using a boy’s name when she was seven. At age 17, she openly dressed like a man and cut her hair short. Her depression and anxiety drove her to a doctor, who diagnosed her as having gender dysphoria and prescribed opposite sex hormones. In 2014, the doctor advised her to openly live as a man.  

She told her supervisors of her “transition” and asked them to develop policies relating to use of restroom and locker rooms for transgender employees. In 2015, Vroegh began using men’s bathrooms in public places.  

Supervisors told Vroegh she would not be able to use the men’s restrooms and locker rooms at work, but accommodated her request with private, unisex facilities.

In April 2016, Vroegh was told that no transgender policy would be written “since transgender issues are ‘too controversial.’” Vroegh took her complaint to the state Civil Rights Commission, accusing her employer of “denying my request because they were concerned about ‘the rights of male officers.’“  

Earlier this year, the commission concluded she had “reasonable possibility” for a “probable cause determination.” Rather than wait for the commission to settle the matter, Vroegh decided to sue in District Court.

Her lawsuit claims that using a unisex bathroom “isolates” her and “greatly aggravates my disability, gender dysphoria (including depression and anxiety).” She noted that the unisex locker room has no shower.

As far as her desired breast amputation, the state does not insure for gender reassignment surgery.

Vroegh is represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the ACLU LGBT Project, and attorney Melissa Hasso.

“Forcing an employee to use a separate space isolates the employee and sends the harmful message that he or she is abnormal and ‘less-than’ his or her colleagues,” Hasso said.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan said the union stands behind Vroegh.

The Conservative Tribune commented, “There is no reason why someone with female reproductive parts needs to use the bathroom or locker room intended for those with male reproductive parts — especially when unisex facilities have been provided.”

“Gender identity” was added to Iowa’s anti-discrimination code in 2007. To do so, some Republicans joined a solid Democrat bloc as soon as Democrats controlled both chambers of the state legislature.

The ACLU claims Vroegh’s lawsuit is the first for transgenders since the civil code was changed.

Vroegh now works as an assistant director of nursing at another facility.  

View Vroegh’s original 2016 complaint here.

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