"I think that the public has a very difficult time with this case for two reasons … The first being that gender is the most misunderstood area of human behavior so many people don’t accept that this is a legitimate medical reason. The second is the age old question: Why do people who are incarcerated often get medical treatments that people who are living freely in society don’t get access to?"
Randi Ettner, chairwoman of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s Committee for Incarcerated Persons, commenting on the public response to the case of Michelle Kosilek.
For years, Michelle Kosilek has been asking the Massachusetts prison system for “sex-change” surgery. Born Robert Kosilek, she went to jail in 1992 for murdering her wife and at that point, changed her name and “began living like a woman to the maximum extent possible,” according to a recent court ruling.
In 2003, after Kosilek sued the state for refusing to grant her hormone therapy and a sex-change operation — now more commonly known among transgender advocates and medical professionals as gender confirmation surgery — a judge ruled that the therapy was necessary treatment.
This month, the same judge ordered the state Department of Correction to provide surgery as well, marking the first time in the United States that a federal judge has ordered this type of surgery for an inmate. Transgender advocates praised the court’s ruling and called it step forward, but this week the state appealed the ruling, citing safety concerns and insisting that the treatment isn’t necessary.