Testimony ends in tax deductible sex change case

Lawyers on both sides of the law presented their final arguments in the case of Rhiannon O'Donnabhain against the Commissioner of the IRS, where the issue is the authority to take a tax deduction for medical costs relating to a sex change operation.

Presenting her case in the U.S. Tax Court in Boston, O'Donnabhain is suing the Internal Revenue Service in the aftermath of having a $25,000 tax deduction for medical expenses relating to the operation disallowed. O'Donnabhain had surgery to remove male genitals and augment breasts. "The only way for me to be the real person I was in my mind was to have the surgery," said O'Donnabhain.

The IRS has taken the position that gender identity disorder, the illness with which O'Donnabhain has been diagnosed, is not a disease. Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz testified for the IRS, claiming that in order for gender identity disorder, or any other disorder or condition, to be classified as a disease, it has to have "an underlying pathological process." Dietz referred to O'Donnabhain's condition as a variation in human nature, not a disease.

The IRS has also described the expenses for the operation as voluntary cosmetic surgery.

O'Donnabhain's attorneys, members of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, have taken the position that the operation was a medical necessity.

"Transgendered people deserve dignity, respect, and equal treatment, not just for our medical care, but in all aspects of our lives," O'Donnabhain said to reporters after court recessed last Thursday.

Attorney's have until November 6 to file briefs with the court, after which time the judge will make his decision.

Related story:
Tax Court hears case on deductibility of sex change operation


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