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Massachusetts

Judge suspends ruling on gender reassignment surgery for convicted murderer

Thursday, November 22, 2012

BOSTON — A federal judge, who earlier this year ordered that convicted murderer Michelle Kosilek be allowed taxpayer-funded gender reassignment surgery, ruled Tuesday that he would suspend his order until an appeal of his ruling by the administration of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

U. S. District Judge Mark Wolf, who acknowledged that his previous ruling on the surgery was “unpopular and misunderstood,” also rejected a request for electrolysis treatment for Kosilek, saying that would have to come as part of a new case.

Michelle Kosilek (right), and as Robert Kosilek at the time of arrest in 1990.

In his original 126-page ruling, Wolf said that the treatment for Kosilek had been prescribed by Department of Correction doctors, and that the only justification for denying the treatment would be based on public opinion.

Wolf found that surgery would be the “only adequate treatment” for Kosilek, and that “there is no less intrusive means to correct the prolonged violation of Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care.”

According to court documents, Kosilek, a transgender female inmate, first sued the Department of Corrections 12 years ago. After two years of litigation, Kosilek — in her first appearance before Wolf — won the right to receive hormone treatments, although Wolf stopped short of ordering the gender reassignment surgery then.

The Patrick administration has appealed Wolf’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Wolf advised the state it will probably have to pay for the attorney’s fees in the case, now about $800,000.

Kosilek’s lawsuit has become fodder for radio talk shows and Massachusetts lawmakers, who said the state should not be forced to pay for a convicted murderer’s sex-change operation – which can cost up to $20,000 – since many insurance companies reject the surgery as elective.

Kristina Wertz, Director of Programs and Policy for the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, told LGBTQ Nation that “there is a strong medical consensus that health care related to gender transition is medically necessary for transgender people.”

“We are heartened to see the court recognize that transgender people who are incarcerated are entitled to the same access to medically necessary services that all people in prison should receive,” said Wertz, in an email statement.

Kosilek is serving a life sentence for the 1990 murder of her spouse Cheryl Kosilek.

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22 more reader comments:

  1. I’m sorry I’m gay & all & I’m all for our rights but why should I a tax payer b paying for a murderer’s gender change?? He murdered his wife & now we tax payers have to pay for his reassignment??? No!!

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 7:43pm
  2. i agree.

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 7:46pm
  3. he barely deserves to live.

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 7:47pm
  4. SHE. Jesus. Even if you think this one particular person is the scum of the earth, there is no reason in the world why anyone commenting here should use the tactic of denying her the pronouns consistent with how she identifies. Think about it. Doing so basically invalidates not only this one person’s gender identity, but is also offensive to trans people in general. Transphobia is unacceptable no matter who it is used against.

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 7:57pm
  5. We can agree to disagree!!

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 8:09pm
  6. No way should taxpayers have to pay the bill for his operation. He murdered. He had a choice not to. He had plenty of time before the crime to seek out the psychological and medical alternatives. Now he must face the consequences of those decisions.

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 8:10pm
  7. Discrimination against our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters must stop.

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 8:18pm
  8. Are you serious right now? Lets get a handle on the rights of the free before we concern ourselves with convicted killers.

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 8:20pm
  9. Nobody is discriminating or being transphobic, the issue is why are we paying for a convicted killers gender change!!! Even if it wasn’t about a trans man, I shouldn’t have to pay for crap for some convicted killer!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 8:26pm
  10. I agree with Matthew that taxpayers should not have to pay for her surgery. However Meredith is right using proper pronouns is vital when dealing with trasgenderd people.

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 8:27pm
  11. When you deny someone the right to live by murder, then you don’t deserve ANY rights yourself. He deserves to die, himself.

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 8:28pm
  12. I am bi, well Pansexual. My transgendered girl is MY EVERYTHING!!! But, paying for a MURDERER bullshlit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 8:35pm
  13. Having transgender friends, I agree with the need to use proper pronouns. I also, however, understand how confusing it can be which one to use when. Basic human understand is male and female. Even within the LGBTA community, we sometimes have difficulty with the gender identities. But, we should not intentionally use the proper pronoun as though this person has no rights at all. For it is still our right (if not obligation) to try to do the right thing. However, I will agree with most everyone here, that does not include more than basic care any inmate receives. I am not transgender myself only have basic understanding from my transgender friends. I cannot judge if SRS is critical to this person’s basic care or not. I am only glad that decision is not in my hands.

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 8:42pm
  14. Given my stance on murderers, I’m not sympathetic in the least to these kinds of criminals. Anyways, It isn’t the first time I heard about this individual, though she is a woman. To deny that of her, because you are biased on the actions that she took is very wrong and a slap in the face. You cannot choose who you believe deserves to be called by their target and correct pronoun. She is a murderer, I understand this. Do I believe she should get GRS? No, I don’t. It’s not a matter of whether or not she deserves it, but rather that she committed a terrible crime.

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 8:50pm
  15. 1. To keep someone in the wrong body when the SRS/GRS is needed to correct the gender of such a person is to be cruel and inflict unusual punishment.

    2. Being trans is not a decision anyone makes, and medical care for ALL is a human right that cannot be taken simply because someone is convicted of a crime, no matter how serious. All people from all walks of life have an absolute right to needed medical care.

    3. The pronoun issue is spot on…SHE, folks, SHE! Do not resort to taking her pronoun from her. If we take her pronoun from her, then we would have to take ALL gender pronouns away, and we all know what that means! (this would also affect cis-gender people)

    4. Taking a life in return for a life is backwards, inhumane, and without logic. Let me put it this way….a dying person has no clue that they are being punished, because the punishment doesn’t last. Death comes at the end, and that ends the punishment. A dead person cannot reconcile their crimes and does not know anything from the time the dying process starts. These are medical facts.

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 9:39pm
  16. I am sorry folks, I don’t want to offend anyone here but I worked many years and am now disabled and can’t work. I do not have health care as of yet because I live with my daughter and the combined income is too high. I have never murdered anyone and there are treatments that would extend my life and I can’t afford them. So please explain to me why the taxpayers are paying for this?? It’s just plain wrong!!!

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 10:21pm
  17. bullshit. we’re talking about a murderer. she can do her time and if she doesnt die in prison take care of reassignment after release. i’ve lived 51 yrs in this body for lack of $ and fear of docs. if my taxes are to be used for someone elses reassignment than i prefer it be someone deserving. i have no time for this dickhead.

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 10:26pm
  18. Someone who murdered another hardly deserves funded gender reassignment when those who are innocent and desperately want to be their true selves can hardly afford it!

    Posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 at 11:25pm
  19. This ‘person’ deserves no correct pronouns, no polite responses. This in-human being killed their spouse by strangulation, then proceeded to cover up the crime by dumping her body in the trunk of a car. Sorry. No sympathy. Give dental, and general preventative care, but sorry. That person gave up their rights when they chose murder as a way of coping.

    Posted on Friday, November 23, 2012 at 12:03am
  20. Wow, I can’t believe the transphobia on this comment list. It’s shameful to me and extremely hurtful and I am I cisgender ally to the GSSM community. Pronouns should be respected for every individual. I don’t know her case in detail for why she murdered her wife, but I won’t stoop to that level to dehumanize her. Yes, tax payers money goes towards a lot of things, but don’t bitch like you are actually handing 20$ to a person who murdered a family member of yours. You don’t get to hand pick where that money goes to except through voting and her need for surgery is just as legitimate to her identity as anyone else’s. Why are so many sticking to this crab mentality that she shouldn’t receive treatment? Must we drag others down just so we have others to step upon? We don’t decide who “deserves” to become more comfortable within their own body. She is a transwoman NOT man. She should be given basic respect.

    Posted on Friday, November 23, 2012 at 12:50am
  21. I’m a pre-op TS. I have no health insurance and have suffered multiple financial meltdowns trying to cover my gender expenses out of pocket (over and above rent, food, etc). I have also lost everything I owned because of my TSness… Twice! I’m also a veteran. Is anyone lifting a finger to help me in the slightest?? No. I’m a kind decent person who has literally given the shirt off my back to someone who needed it. I also mop floors and clean toilets to earn money for my GRS, and to hand it on a silver platter to a GID’d murderer?? Sorry, I ain’t buying it. Pronouns are free, that’s all she deserves.

    Posted on Friday, November 23, 2012 at 8:18am
  22. Why should a murderer get that bodily freedom when they stolen anothers?! He deserves it for being a killer. I consider decent people who are male to females. She. But this person? HE WILL ALWAYS BE SCUM!

    Posted on Friday, November 23, 2012 at 6:35pm