Massachusetts Appeals Case Granting Gender Surgery For Inmate

Michelle Kosilek

In a jarringly anti-trans maneuver, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s (D) administration has appealed a federal judge’s ruling granting sex reassignment surgery for transgender inmate Michelle Kosilek. The surgery has been prescribed by her Bureau of Prisons doctors, but the state has resisted allowing her to get it for over a decade, spending far more on court medical experts than the surgery would even cost. Department of Correction spokeswoman Diane Wiffin explained the appeal:

WIFFIN: Following a thorough review of the decision, we believe the court failed to give due deference to the fact that the Department has and continues to provide adequate medical treatment to address inmate Kosilek’s gender identity disorder. We also found the opinion improperly discredits the legitimate safety concerns trained correctional professionals testified will arise if sex reassignment surgery is performed.

It’s clear from this explanation that the administration is trying to avoid addressing its lack of transgender protections by punishing Kosilek instead. As Gunner Scott of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition points out, “Care that is medically necessary for prisoners cannot be denied based on public opinion.” If the state truly were providing “adequate medical treatment,” it would allow Kosilek to receive the treatment prescribed by her Bureau of Prisons doctors.

The “legitimate safety concerns” are a problem with the system, not with this case. Kosilek identifies as a woman regardless of whether she has had surgery or not, and her safety is definitely at stake so long as she remains in a men’s prison. By filing this appeal, Patrick’s administration is proving there is no limit to how much taxpayer money it will waste simply to refuse to recognize transgender people for who they are.


Gov. Patrick defended the appeal today in an interview with WTKK-FM:

PATRICK: It’s not a reflection of a point of view about gender-identity disorder. Apparently, that is a real disorder. And, indeed, Kosilek has been getting treatment for that disorder. The question is whether it should go all the way to surgery, and what the implications are for the safety of Kosilek and other inmates, in that event.

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