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'It's just who I am:' Minnesota transgender inmate requests hormone therapy

May 24, 2019 06:23 PM

A community group’s petition on social media is urging Minnesota’s Department of Corrections to approve transgender inmate Anna (Joe) Vanderford’s request for testosterone hormone therapy.

Vanderford, is serving a life sentence for the death of a former boyfriend.

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A 1987 newspaper report showed Vanderford’s lawyer called the fatal shooting a “love story gone wrong.”

In those 32 years behind bars, Vanderford said he now identifies himself as a man, by the name of “Joe.”

Vanderford is now housed at the Shakopee prison after spending time in prisons out-of-state.

"I look in the mirror and I see a guy,” said Vanderford in a phone interview with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. "It's just who I am.”

Back in the fall, Vanderford, 51, said his request for hormone therapy was denied by corrections.


Below is information regarding transgender inmates in federal prisons, several of which are located in Minnesota.


"I know it's a really difficult issue," Vanderford said. “I’m asking for trans-affirming health care.”

Vanderford understands there are critics of the request outside in the community and also behind bars.

"I face a lot of prejudice, I'd be ok with that if I was able to be who I am," Vanderford said.

In 2019, DOC has six inmates who receive hormone therapy in state prisons, at a cost to the state of $1,749, according to state data.

"When we take the rights of everyone seriously, we end up having the rights of everyone improve," said David Boehnke, organizer with Twin Cities Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee.

Twin Cities IWOC recently started a digital petition trying to urge DOC to revisit Vanderford’s request before Pride Events scheduled in late June.

"The goal of this petition is to improve the situation of queer and trans[gender] prisoners," Boehnke said.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS shared Vanderford’s petition with Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell.

"We want to be responsive and we want to be on the forefront of this issue,” Schnell said. “Making sure we are treating people right and equitably."

The commissioner, who took over duties back in January, promised to review the case to make sure established medical policies for inmate hormone therapy were followed.

DOC Policies

"We want to make sure it's grounded in our policy," Schnell said.

Schnell said the department has met with community groups to ensure rights of transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex offenders.

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