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article imageRobert Kosilek/Michelle Kosilek: Should Taxpayers Pay For Sex Change Surgery

By KJ Mullins     Jun 27, 2007 in Lifestyle
Robert Kosilek killed his wife. His trial was in 1990 and he was sentenced to prison. In 1993 he became Michelle Kosilek. Michelle is back in court but not for a crime. Michelle wants the American tax payer to foot her sex change operation.
Michelle has sued the Corrections Department twice citing the Eighth Amendment. Michelle says its cruel and unusual punishment to have to endure life in the body of a man and that the system should not only allow for her sex change operation but also foot the bill.
Trial over this case has been in the courthouse of Boston for more than a year. Its not a cut and dry thing after all to decide if this is a medically necessary operation or an elective one.
The cost of the medical experts alone is over $52,000. And the tax payer is paying for it. Both sides including the judge have had their own experts helping to navigate the controversial path.
Michelle is serving a life sentence for the murder of Robert's wife. When his wife spilled hot tea on his genitals he strangled her and claimed self defense. The jury didn't buy it then and sentenced him.
Michelle's case is being watched by other transgender inmates. No other transgender has successfully sued their state to cover the cost of sex change surgery.
The surgery costs around $20,000. This trial that has been clogging up the courts has so far cost more than triple that.
"They are prisoners. They are there because they've broken the law," said Republican state Sen. Scott Brown, who unsuccessfully introduced a bill to ban sex-change surgery for inmates. "Other folks, people who want to get these types of surgeries, they have to go through their insurance carrier or save up for it and do it independently. Yet if you are in prison, you can do it for nothing? That doesn't make a lot of sense."
The other side of the coin is that transgender cases are getting more medical consideration.
As for Michelle, who has attempted suicide twice already, her future lays in the courts hands. She does receive medical treatment for gender identity disorder that include laser hair removal, hormone treatments and psychotherapy. She says its not enough.
"I would not want to continue existing like this," Kosilek testified.
Those suicide attempts may prove Michelle's undoing when the judge decides to rule.
Her depression has lifted with the use of hormones. Another possible strike.
Experts are divided about whether or not she needs the surgery.
The officials from the prison cite security risks and the question of where to house Michelle if the surgery is allowed. She would be in danger and a risk in both the male and the female prisons.
"The department does not negotiate or respond to threats of harm or suicide in an effort to barter," Former Commissioner Kathleen Dennehy said. "You couldn't run a prison with that kind of leveraging going on."
It will all come down to what the judge thinks. The other transgender inmates are watching and hoping that the judge understands that the surgery can be the difference between a life lived in the right body or being forced to deal with a body that betrays a person for life.
More about Robert kosilek, Michelle, Sex change surgery
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