James Pennington
Courtesy Denver Police Department
Hilary Shenfeld
May 22, 2017 05:12 PM

A Colorado man who is not a medical professional possibly faces a felony assault charge after allegedly castrating a transgender woman, PEOPLE confirms.

In an online letter she posted, the woman allegedly characterized the operation as a “back-alley surgery” she willingly underwent out of “desperation.”

Authorities were called after “a large amount of blood poured out of the incision” as the woman’s wife was changing the dressing, police said.

James L. Pennington, 57, of Westminster, was arrested May 17 for the alleged 90-minute operation at the woman’s apartment, which he performed using a scalpel, lidocaine and other tools from an Army surgical medical kit, according to a statement of probable cause from Denver police obtained by PEOPLE.

He allegedly sewed the incision back up, applied a dressing and told the wife to call 911 if complications developed, according to police.

The woman, whose wife was present during the procedure, developed complications and had to be taken to the hospital, police said.

Pennington was held on suspicion of first-degree assault but no formal charges had yet been filed as of Monday, according to the Denver District Attorney’s office.

Pennington, a pilot with ExpressJet, a regional airline that partners with United and other airlines, has been placed on administrative leave, a company spokeswoman tells PEOPLE. 

Woman: ‘I Have Been Stopped at Every Turn’ From Completing Transition

The transgender woman going by the name Jane Doe did not respond to a request for comment but wrote in her online letter that Pennington was not “a monster” and instead allegedly “offered me a kindness.”

“I am here to verify that I am indeed a victim,” she wrote. “However, I am not a victim of 57 year old James Lowell Pennington who is the suspect in this case. I am a victim of a society and healthcare system that focuses on trying to demonize transgender people and prevent us from getting the medical transition we need instead of trying to do what is best for us.”

Doe wrote she was born male but identified as female from an early age and struggled with “the pain of going through life as something I was not.” She started hormone therapy at age 22 and started living as a woman but suffered genital dysphoria, which she described as “feelings of extreme depression, stress, and overall negativity when one’s genitals do not match those of their gender.”

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She wrote her birth sex also produced testosterone “which interfered with my female reproductive hormone therapy, and forced me to take a testosterone blocking medication which is highly dangerous to the body over long periods of time,” she wrote.

Doe tried for years to get legitimate gender confirmation surgeries but “[w]hether it be the loss of insurance, or changes in the law, I have been stopped at every single turn from completing my transition” so she decided to seek the unsanctioned surgery, she wrote.

Transgender surgery can cost more than $100,000, according to a 2015 Reuters report.

Pennington, who police alleged confessed to committing a surgical procedure without a medical license, was released on $50,000 bond even though he has not been charged. He has not entered a plea, and his attorney wrote neither he nor Pennington had any comment. 

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