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Federal appeals court upholds sex change for Mass. transgender inmate

Friday, January 17, 2014

BOSTON — A federal appeals court has upheld a judge’s ruling granting a taxpayer-funded sex change operation for a Massachusetts transgender inmate serving a life sentence for murder.

Michelle Kosilek

Michelle Kosilek

Michelle Kosilek was born male but has received hormone treatments and lives as a woman in an all-male prison. Kosilek identified as Robert when convicted of killing his wife in 1990.

Kosilek sued the state Department of Correction after prison officials refused to grant her request for sex reassignment surgery. A federal judge ruled in 2012 the surgery is the “only adequate treatment” for Kosilek’s gender identity disorder.

Prison officials appealed the ruling to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled Friday the 64-year-old Kosilek is entitled to the surgery.

Prison officials argued there are legitimate safety concerns over protecting her in prison if she has the surgery.

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47 more reader comments:

  1. Will she still be granted parole?

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 8:56pm
  2. interesting………..

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 8:59pm
  3. Sadly it is hard to feel for someone who murdered another person but the surgery will allow her to be in a female prison, which is the gender she identifies with.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:02pm
  4. And what about her victim? They get to be in a grave, I think not being with the gender she/he identifies with is what she/he gets for being a murderer.

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:18pm
  5. i’m trans and don’t agree with this at all. she committed a crime. yes, she deserves her right to transition, but NOT at the expense of the taxpayer. most of us have to pay for everything ourselves. why shouldn’t she?

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:03pm
  6. Agreed :)

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:13pm
  7. Definitely agree.

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:29pm
  8. I couldn't agree with you more. Its just as good as saying do the wrong thing and you still get rewarded. Not how it works. We have to work for it. She should as well. She deserves to be herself as she really is like everyone else but she needs to go thru it the same was as we do..plain and simple.

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 10:24pm
  9. i don't think i'd be protesting as much if all trans individuals had surgical coverage or if she was a tax-paying citizen. this sends a horrible message and makes no logical sense. maybe we should all become incarcerated and file a lawsuit against the state demanding they pay for our surgeries?

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 10:40pm
  10. agreed.

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 11:16pm
  11. Your so right!

    Replied on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 2:23am
  12. I don’t think inmates convicted of taking the life of another human being should be granted ANYTHING. Especially something that will make them happy or more comfortable. And, even further, especially at the expense of tax payers. This person murdered someone. They should not be granted a damn thing.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:04pm
  13. Kinda creepy that it actually looks a bit like Dorothy Michaels lol

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:05pm
  14. I am thinking this is horrible news!!! She’s a murderer! There are good people that have to struggle to pay for their transitions!!! Continuing hormones and giving her respect as a woman should be enough!! But if she was found guilty of murder, tax payers should not be forced to improve her life!!

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:16pm
  15. I am sorry but this is just not okay. Tax payers should not have to pay for a surgical procedure that the vast majority of Transgender people have to pay for out of their own pocket. Not only that but she is a convicted murderer and does NOT deserve special treatment. If she wants to transition then she better figure out a way to pay for it herself not rely on the hard working citizens of society.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:17pm
  16. This is an abuse of the system and an abuse of taxpayer dollars ..

    If he/she wants this either get it funded privately or pay for it themself …

    But the American people shoukd not be funding this …

    Ill even agree to hormone threatments in prison since that amounts to medication but elective surgery? No

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:20pm
  17. Hormones ok, but an 18,000 dollar surgery that has only recently started being covered by insurance for citizens? Definitely not ok.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:23pm
  18. Liss LaFleur’

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:24pm
  19. I am trans and I do not agree with this!!!! Most insurance won’t even cover this and the tax payer should definitely not cover it!!! Those sitting in jail gave up their rights when they decided to become a criminal.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:28pm
  20. what a crock of shit

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:31pm
  21. so those who are transgender suffer from a disorder?

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:34pm
  22. @shannon This is not about the victim. This person is serving their life sentence. This person identifies as female.
    Historically their was a time where “Transexual” was a metal term referring to mentally identifying with the opposite gender.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:37pm
  23. Seriously, the only issue anyone here should have is that this person Killed Someone! Tax-payer money is all the government has. And in reality the USA has nothing but Debt.

    And Trans people who are offended have obviously never had an opportunity where someone else paid in full for both SRS surgeries. At the age of 64 I doubt this Transwoman will ever again get this chance.

    People in the world are way too fucking concerned how unfair life is. When everyone is fucking different even if genetically the same.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:42pm
  24. Ruth the point is she is a murderer, a criminal!!!!! She has no special rights. Nobody in jail or prison should have opportunities. Tax payers shouldn’t have to front a bill that she alone probably would never be able to afford in the first place!!!!

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:48pm
  25. Michael T. Pagano, that’s HER, not IT

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:51pm
  26. To my knowledge,prisoners serving time for capital crimes forfeit many of their rights and expectations of what they may do with their lives , one forfeiture being life itself-if they face execution -others being liberty and the pursuit of happiness. While I sympathize with this person’s wishes,I can not agree that a gender reassignment while incarcerated is anyone’s right.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:51pm
  27. If inmates can not donate their bodies for organs, give up an organ for to save a life, or offer up their bodies while still alive for research, then IMO, this surgery should not happen either!

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:58pm
  28. Maybe this could set a precedent for insurance companies to cover the reassignment surgery.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 10:01pm
  29. No. He should be allowed to have the procedure, but not at tax payer expense. I don’t want to pay for any procedure that is not immediately life threatening. Don’t get me wrong because I fully support LBGT folks but he is a criminal and I don’t think they should get free cable much less unnecessary medical care. He should save his money or look for private support.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 10:06pm
  30. she***

    Replied on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 10:20pm
  31. I’m continually amazed at the flaws in our legal system. This individual strangled “her” wife with a piano wire, almost decapitating her and left her nude body in the back seat of a car in a mall shopping center, leaving behind a 15 yr old son. Why does this warrant our money going towards a sex reassignment surgery?? If you murdered someone, you do not deserve any luxuries, you forfeited those things when you squeezed the life out of another individual. This is pure insanity.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 10:10pm
  32. @Lynnette Murder is the only point to be mad at her. But to decide that in jail violence on a Transwoman forced to be in a Male only correction facility is a deserved punishment is absurd. The reason a person is in jail should not stop people from recognizing Trans Violence.

    In Texas same-sex inmate couples can get married but a Transwoman says SRS is a medical issue and everyone says it’s not fair and calls Her a “he”. Tax payer dollars go into the Same-Sex marriage ceremonies too!

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 10:17pm
  33. This is going to end up reflecting badly on the rest of us…

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 10:18pm
  34. She.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 10:21pm
  35. I am torn on this because transitional surgery is a recommended therapy for transsexuals to feel and be more mentally comfortable in their own skin and to be more mentally stable. That being said she killed her wife and gave up her right to a normal life and the comforts allotted people who have not committed crimes. Many law abiding trans people can’t afford their hormones much less SRS.. Not really sure that it is right to pay for a felon while others who are contributing to society are denied such allotments..

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 10:23pm
  36. We sentence people to prison terms, we don’t sentence them to medical conditions. A diabetic inmate will receive insulin, and one with renal failure will receive dialysis. A sex change operation isn’t “special treatment,” it’s treatment for a potentially life-threatening condition. People with gender dysphoria have ridiculously high rates of suicide and self-harm. Transitioning doesn’t give people extra comfort, it gives them the minimum level of comfort that they should have just for inhabiting their own bodies, which is a human right.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 10:41pm
  37. Ruth, I am not excluding anyone. I think that anyone in jail/prison should lose their “rights”. I don’t believe in cable tv, I don’t believe in rights at all. When you kill someone or break the law I believe in paying your dues to society. I believe prisons should make people work for their money and families shouldn’t just give them money. A person in prison gave up their rights as a productive part of society when they chose to break the law. They have segregated units. They have places to put people that need protection and it doesn’t require money from tax payers. I don’t believe in marriage in prison. The point is YOU LOST THE RIGHT TO LIVE A NORMAL LIFE WHEN YOU CHOSE TO DO WRONG.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 10:41pm
  38. I guess if you want SRS and don’t have the money you can wind up in prison and get one.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 11:05pm
  39. i don’t think this has to do with any of that. here is someone being allowed to have a surgery that very well may change their life. Inmates may receive organs. it feels as though people here are not acknowledging the how for many people in the world this is more than a highly desired surgery, it is not the same as when someone opts for plastic surgery (for non/reconstructive means) which is how these surgeries are sometimes perceived. organ transplants, medications, surgeries… all of these are funded by tax payer dollars for inmates. i don’t no see why michelle should be treated any differently. if people are upset, than they should be upset at the system as a whole. otherwise, they are just degrading michelle and all those who have attempted to have any of these surgeries only to hear from others that they are not like other health care concerns, are not as important….so on.

    inmates don’t make much money in prison… should people like for inmates to cover their health care costs, they want to look and ask how. simply because one is in prison does not mean they deserve inhuman treatment. america’s healthcare is already a work in progress… why destroy the good there is… that’s not how to fix the bad! from there the question is… how do we get people healthcare.

    mostly…. they should most definitely not have to stay in the prison they are currently in… i may not like the whole “all male” “all female” or any of that…but so long as it’s there… no one identifying as one should have to be placed into the other…that’s just degrading

    i wonder too if any one has even looked at or thought about the affects of being recognized and treated like any other person (vs not) may have and have had on Michelle’s actions. Past, present and future.

    Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014 at 11:26pm
  40. She’s a criminal, but I’m hoping if the transition is paid for, it could be a step toward average citizens getting their transition paid for by insurance. It should be already…

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 12:00am
  41. I agree with Weston. Inmates abuse the system. They can go to college, get degrees.. They get special foods and privileges because of their faith,etc. But this is not life-threatening surgery. Why should taxpayers pay for this. This is outrageous.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 12:26am
  42. This is absolutely ridiculous. A lot of trans people are not happy about this absurd and utterly ridiculous ruling. Free SRS and others have to work hard to pay for it an all the trans organizations are lauding this as victory. Almost no trans people are supportive of this that I can see and I can understand why.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 12:33am
  43. This is wrong!

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 12:57am
  44. There’s too much wrong with this. I cannot even begin.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 1:00am

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 3:14am
  46. As long as they throw her in a women’s prison after surgery.

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 4:00am
  47. While the circumstances are indeed tragic regarding Michelle and her resulting incarceration she should be transferred to a female prison after her surgery for her safety but I’ve heard from many a prison guard female inmates are much worse, that men are actually docile by comparison

    Posted on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 4:16am