Kanautica Zayre-Brown had been incarcerated in a North Carolina men’s facility for more than a year when the Department of Public Safety made the decision to move the transgender female inmate to a women’s facility in Anson County in 2019. That decision made her the first incarcerated transgender person transferred based on gender identity in North Carolina.
Unfortunately, her struggles didn’t end there, and her fight to receive gender-affirming medical care continues, though it appears there may now be a light at the end of the tunnel.During the final week of August, attorneys for the ACLU urged a federal district court to grant preliminary relief to Zayre-Brown. Following the hearing, U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn indicated the possibility of an order to reject the state government’s request to dismiss the suit entirely.
Cogburn confirmed he wants to hear arguments in Zayre-Brown’s case, but refrained from making a ruling on the motion and he did not respond to the ACLU’s motion for a preliminary injunction, which would have allowed Zayre-Brown to have surgery and receive prescriptions.
Although no specific dates have been announced, he is expected to issue his decision on both motions in the near future,
In the most recent lawsuit filed on behalf of Zayre-Brown in April 2022, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS) is charged with denying essential gender-affirming health care to the inmate, who has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
Zayre-Brown has requested necessary treatment consistent with established medical standards yet for several years, but she continues to face numerous delays.
“State officials must comply with their legal obligations to those committed to their care, including those who are transgender,” said Jaclyn Maffetore, staff attorney with the ACLU of North Carolina. “Mrs. Zayre-Brown deserves adequate medical treatment for her gender dysphoria. DPS’s failure to provide that care is a violation of her rights, an affront to her dignity, and a threat to her life.”
If granted by Cogburn and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, the motion for a preliminary injunction will require DPS to assess Zayre-Brown for the medical care she has been denied and provide it while the case proceeds.
In response to litigation from the ACLU and ACLU affiliates, courts across the country have consistently recognized the right of incarcerated transgender people to adequate health care and safety measures. In late December 2021, a federal court ruled on a motion and ordered the Bureau of Prisons to evaluate Cristina Nichole Iglesias for gender-affirming surgery.
That decision marked the first time a court has ordered the federal government to address an incarcerated person’s medical needs for transgender-related surgery needs.
Zayre-Brown was convicted of insurance fraud and sentenced to ten years in 2017, which would mean she will remain in the Anson County Correctional Facility until 2027. Reaction to her plight from LGBTQ Americans nationwide and the work of the ACLU secured her ytansfer from a men’s prison to the women’s facility in 2019. She has expressed regret for her crimes and is hopeful for an early release.
More information on this developing story will be forthcoming as it is made available