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Terrified grandmother sent to all-male prison after she was mistaken as ‘transgender’

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MIAMI, Florida, December 5, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – With every week seemingly bringing a new batch of disputes over “transgender identity,” it was perhaps only a matter of time before a scandal arose over “assuming the gender” of somebody who isn’t gender-confused.

Fior Pichardo de Veloz is a 55-year-old attorney who was arrested in November 2013 on old drug charges when flying into Miami for the birth of her granddaughter, the Miami Herald reports. During a medical checkup as part of her booking, nurse Fatu Kamara Harris saw on her records that Pichardo was taking hormone pills, and allegedly assumed she was a man taking them to grow breasts.

In fact, Pichardo was taking the pills as part of hormone replacement therapy to treat menopause symptoms, and her sex had already been confirmed by the arresting officer as well as a strip search. Pichardo maintained she was a woman, but Dr. Fredesvindo Rodriguez-Garcia allegedly “reclassified” her as male without any further examination or inquiry about her sex or the pills.

Harris allegedly told the jail officer “everything [i.e., male genitals] fell out” during an exam, but corrections officers Kimberly Jones and Audrey Morman expressed concerns about her assessment. Nevertheless, Harris added a note to Pichardo’s file reading,"Transgender, male parts, female tendencies," and dismissed Jones’ inquiries by simply saying “she’s a man” and walking off.

Pichardo was taken to the all-male Metro West Detention Center, with another corrections officer allegedly telling her, “You are a woman. Good luck if you’re alive tomorrow.”

She was placed in a holding cell with roughly 40 men, some of whom laughed and leered at her and verbally harassed her. Pichardo says she was so terrified to use the cell’s toilet that she ended up urinating on herself.

She ultimately spent ten hours in the men’s prison, after which she sued the county and prison staff for “cruel and unusual punishment.” A federal judge threw out the suit, but this month a federal appeals court unanimously reinstated it.

“Every reasonable prison officer and medical personnel would have known that wrongfully misclassifying a biological female as a male inmate and placing that female in the male population of a detention facility was unlawful,” Judge Frank Hull wrote, finding that Harris and Rodriguez-Garcia’s conduct constituted “deliberate indifference.”

They concluded Harris was “exposed to consistent and repeated information that Mrs. Pichardo was a woman” and “stubbornly refused” to verify it. The court also found that Rodriguez-Garcia “knew that sending a woman to an all-male prison would pose a risk of serious harm to her safety, however, he took no steps to verify Mrs. Pichardo’s sex before re-classifying her as male.”

The ruling means that Pichardo can pursue a trial against Rodriguez-Garcia and Harris.

“The opinion correctly held, as we believed, that the defendants could not be so struthious as to ignore the overwhelming evidence in front of them that Mrs. Pichardo was in fact female,” Pichardo’s attorney Ryan Marks said.

There has been growing concern in the United States and United Kingdom over placing men who claim to be women in female prison populations. Cases like what happened to Pichardo are much rarer, but are in danger of recurring in the absence of clear mandates that inmates be grouped based on their actual sex.

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