For eight years, a convicted killer in Massachusetts has been battling the state's Department of Correction in court over his desire to get a sex-change operation.
So far, Michelle Kosilek, formerly known as Robert, has not succeeded but she did score a victory in 2002 when a judge ruled that Kosilek was entitled to treatment for gender identity disorder — including hormone treatments, laser hair removal and psychotherapy. The judge stopped short of ordering sex-reassignment surgery, so Kosilek sued again.
Now while she waits a ruling on her latest suit, Kosilek says she is being denied the approved treatment. Her body is becoming more masculine again, she complains.
"My breasts have shrunk, genitals have regained previous size and function, facial hair is thicker and scalp hair is thinner, all related to an elevated testosterone level," Kosilek said in a letter submitted to the court.
Robert Kosilek was sentenced to life in prison for the 1990 murder of his wife.
Kosilek, 58, who legally changed her name to Michelle in 1993, first sued the Department of Correction in 2000, saying its refusal to allow her to have sex-change surgery violates the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. In 2002, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled that Kosilek was entitled to treatment for gender identity disorder but did not order sex-reassignment surgery. Kosilek sued again in 2005, saying the treatments were not enough to relieve her depression.
The trial lasted on and off from May 2006 until March 2007, with expert testimony from 10 doctors, psychiatrists and psychotherapists. An Associated Press review found that the corrections department and its health care provider had spent $52,000 on experts to testify about the surgery, which would cost about $20,000.
Wolf has given no indication when he will rule in the case, which is being closely watched nationwide by advocates for other inmates who want to undergo a sex change.
The Department of Correction claims Kosilek's surgery would create a security quagmire and make her a target for sexual assault.