Former Illinois inmate finally has gender-affirming surgery following four-year fight

Cristina Nichole Iglesias had the surgery March 30 and is recovering well, according to the ACLU, the organization representing Iglesias in her legal battle.

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A former federal inmate, at one time housed in Illinois, has finally undergone gender-affirming surgery following a four-year battle with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. | Chicago Sun-Times file photo

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A former federal prisoner, at one time housed in Illinois, has finally undergone the gender-affirming surgery she had sought for four years, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the woman in her legal case.

Cristina Nichole Iglesias had her surgery March 30 and is recovering well, the ACLU said in a statement.

“We are pleased that Cristina has finally received the constitutionally-mandated health care she has sought for years, and that she is recovering well from the surgery,” said Taylor Brown, staff attorney for the LGBTQ & HIV Project at the ACLU. “While we have waited for this day for Cristina, we know that her victory also is going to benefit other transgender people in [federal] custody, changing their lives for the better as well.”

Back in June of last year, Iglesias finally reached a settlement with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to provide her with “vaginoplasty” and “other medically necessary gender-affirming procedures, including permanent facial hair removal, facial-feminization surgery and breast augmentation,” according to the ACLU Illinois.

At the time, Iglesias, who had been in prison for almost two decades for threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction, was set to become the first inmate in federal custody to receive the surgery, according to her attorneys.

But earlier this year, another federal detainee became the first person to receive the surgery, according to the ACLU, which did not provide the other inmate’s name and location.

The bureau of prisons could not be reached for comment.

Iglesias is no longer in federal custody, but the surgery was paid for by the federal government under the terms of the settlement.

Iglesias, who was born with male genitals, had been trying for years to persuade the bureau to approve her surgery. She filed a lawsuit while she was housed in the federal prison in downstate Marion in 2019.

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