(EDGE) The lawsuit filed by a cisgender grandmother can now proceed thanks to a federal appeals court's ruling that recognizes that a doctor and nurse who erroneously concluded that she was transgender — despite a previous examination - placed her in potential harm's way.
In November of 2013, Fior Pichardo de Veloz arrived at Miami International Airport from the Dominican Republic in order to see her grandchild's birth. She didn't realize there was an outstanding drug charge against her; she was arrested and taken into custody where she was subjected to a strip search to check for contraband, according to multiple media sources, including Tampa NBC affiliate WCMH.
That medical exam confirmed Pichardo as a female. But then things got weird: Pichardo was given another medical exam due to high blood pressure, and a nurse noted that she was undergoing hormone replacement therapy, a common procedure for menopausal women. But the nurse reportedly leaped to a wildly different conclusion and suggested that Pichardo was a transwoman taking hormones to enhance breast development. That nurse later came up with the claim that "everything fell out" during an exam, news sources said, including Newshub, a comment was evidently taken to suggest that an examination had found her to be in possession of male sex organs.
That same nurse reportedly put a note in Pichardo's file that read, "Transgender, male parts, female tendencies," reported The Christian Post. The problem with that story? No such follow-up exam actually took place, even though a doctor subsequently interviewed Pichardo. She was then housed for hours with male inmates who made her feel so threatened that rather than use the toile she wet herself.
Pichardo protested time and again that she was cisgender and a woman, only for her pleas to be shrugged aside. One law enforcement officer reportedly was callous enough to tell her, "You are a woman - good luck if you are alive tomorrow."
It wasn't until her family showed up at the facility where Pichardo had originally been detained as a woman and, outraged, demanded answers that action was finally taken and Pichardo returned to the women's facility.
Incredibly, Pichardo's ordeal wasn't over even then: News sources recount that she was given another exam, which proved her status as a cisgender female, but also said that officers made fun of her and even took a photograph of her in a state of undress.
Pichardo filed suit, only for that suit to be dismissed — but a federal appeals court reversed that decision, reported The Miami Herald, and now the suit can proceed.
Wrote the judge who authored the opinion in the case, in which the bench found unanimously in Pichardo's favor, "Every reasonable prison officer and medical personnel would have known that wrongfully misclassifying a biological female as a male inmate and placing that female in the male population of a detention facility was unlawful," the Miami Herald reported.
Various media outlets noted that Pichardo is, herself, a lawyer and an elected official in the Dominican Republic.