Disability Rights California helps a transgender woman advocate for herself

Sponsored by San Diego LGBT Pride
Photo of a dark looking corridor to a detention facility. The transgender symbol glows brightly slightly illuminating the scene.

Disability Rights California believes people have the right to express their sexuality, gender, and sexual orientation free from discrimination, harassment, interference, and retaliation whether they live in the community or in institutions.

Sage, an individual with a psychiatric disability and a former resident of a locked facility, found herself facing difficulties. As a transgender woman housed within an all-male facility, Sage didn’t have access to toiletries, cosmetics and undergarments that met her needs as a woman. Furthermore, the hospital didn’t have policies and procedures in place to accommodate her request for hormone replacement therapy.

Sage contacted DRC’s California Office of Patients’ Rights (COPR) for assistance. COPR worked with facility staff to address Sage’s concerns, resulting in numerous efforts to better educate and reduce stigma. 

“It can be as simple as how the person is addressed. For example, using the name and pronoun that they prefer, ensuring they have personal hygiene items, privacy that meets their transitional needs, such as individual bathrooms,” said Michele Mudgett, COPR director.

Photo of a Pride flag and two photographs laid on top of a wooden table. Photographs show a dark corridor to a detention facility and a person looking distraught.

The California Department of State Hospitals (DSH) adopted several practices to provide protections and accommodations for residents who identify as transgender.

“Our advocacy extended beyond the state hospital and included the DSH – Office of Human Rights department within the Department of State Hospitals to assist in identifying the need for policies regarding transgender rights,” Mudgett said.

Sage was one of the first residents at the facility to live in the same room with her partner, which paved the way for other residents to have similar living situations.

“Sage is a zealous and informed individual who believes in a supportive environment that allows equality for everyone receiving services,” Mudgett said.

DRC honored Sage’s courage and perseverance with a Client Recognition Award in 2014.