NEW DELHI: It’s hard enough surviving on the streets for a transgender with the persistent onslaught of rebuke and exclusion from peers and strangers alike. Imagine the horror, when you are a transgender and a black and have to survive in a prison which is credited with the second highest number of sexual assaults among inmates across all 50 states of the United States.

Ashley Diamond, 36, and a transgender, was once a peppy teenager with the dream of becoming a singer and a songwriter. She is now condemned to live a better part of her life in one such prison on the charge of burglary. She was arrested in 2012, and will be released in 2023.

According to media reports, her defeminisation started with day one in prison, she was made to lose her hair, and put up with the most violent male prisoners, despite her constant pleas that she was a woman and needed to be treated as one. The prison officials instead referred to her as gay, and left her to fend for herself with the advice-- guard your booty.

Raped seven times since, besides the everyday abuse, Diamond saw a glimmer of hope when the US Justice Department issued a notice last week to all local and state prisons to not hold back the ongoing hormone treatment for transgenders.

Resumption of her hormone treatment was what she had fought for, and had sued Georgia Department of Prison for it in February. She had been taking her hormone treatment for 17 years before it was stopped in 2012 by the Georgia prison intake center.

Her lawyers, according to an article in New York Times, said that without the hormone treatment her body has been “violently transformed”. They said, “Ms. Diamond has lost breast tissue and her female secondary sex characteristics have diminished”. Diamond has tried suicide attempts many times, and tried to castrate herself once through a razor, ending up in hospital.

The Court papers stated, “Terminating her hormone therapy created painful side effects, including chest pains, heart palpitations, clinically significant depression, and increased thoughts of suicide, hopelessness and anxiety. According to Ms. Diamond, her gender dysphoria is so severe that she has attempted suicide and self-castration on multiple occasions during her incarceration.”

It further observed, “Abruptly terminating Ms. Diamond’s medical treatment caused her condition to deteriorate and reversed the years of therapeutic benefits she experienced by taking hormones in the community.”

The judgment observed that what has happened to Diamond is clearly unconstitutional and is a violation of 8th Amendment which ensures protection to inmates against cruel and unusual punishment.

Ashley Diamond is from Rome, Georgia, and earlier worked as a drag cabaret dancer and lived a glamorous lifestyle until hard times fell on her and in want of a stable job she took to crime. She was convicted on the charges of theft and obstruction of justice, with a maximum release date in 2023.

“It was like as if she had murdered a small village”, wondered Charles Neal Sumlin on the quantum of punishment. He is the interior designer friend whose house Diamond had burgled into for $10,000 worth of checks.