Kosilek should not be granted sex change surgery

By Steven Gillard

Editor’s note: Because Kosilek identifies as female, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian will refer to her as such.

On Jan. 17, a Massachusetts federal appeals court upheld the decision to grant Michelle Kosilek—a murderer, formerly known as Robert Kosilek—a taxpayer-funded sex change. Kosilek, 64, strangled her wife, Cheryl McCaul, in 1990, following an altercation between the two. She left McCaul’s body in the trunk of her car in the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro. On May 24, 1990, Kosilek was stopped by a police officer for speeding in New York. She was found to be operating under the influence of alcohol, and later admitted to the police that she murdered her wife.

Kosilek was brought back to Massachusetts, tried and convicted of first degree murder. She received life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Throughout her incarceration, Kosilek has continuously sued the Massachusetts Department of Corrections. In 2002, Kosilek won a case requiring the state to provide her with treatment for gender identity disorder, eventually including hormone replacement therapy, psychotherapy and laser hair removal. In 2006, Kosilek sued the MDOC for violation of her Eighth Amendment rights, claiming that the refusal of the MDOC to provide her with sex reassignment surgery was a form of “cruel and unusual punishment.”

In September 2012, U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled that inaction by the MDOC was a violation of Kosilek’s constitutional rights and that she must be provided with sex reassignment surgery at the expense of the state. The MDOC appealed Wolf’s ruling, which was upheld by a three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals on Jan. 17 in a 2-1 decision, in which it was claimed that Kosilek’s Eighth Amendment rights entitled her to “medically necessary treatment.”

On Jan. 31, the MDOC announced that it would appeal to the full panel of judges of the same court.

The justification given for the surgery is appalling. While I understand that Kosilek suffers from gender identity disorder, and make no claims to understand the psychological torment undoubtedly caused by such a condition, that Kosilek’s desire to be a woman requires “medically necessary” treatment remains an audacious hyperbole of the situation at hand.

Kosilek, who has lived 64 years of her life as a male, will not die if she must live the rest of her life as one. If she were suffering from a disease that were actually life-threatening, then I might be inclined to agree that providing her with treatment that may save her life is actually “medically necessary.” Then again, maybe I wouldn’t be, since she is a murderer and a person whose life my tax dollars should not be spent to preserve. To tell the citizens of Massachusetts that their hard-earned money must go toward providing a 64-year-old convict with a vagina is an absolute outrage.

If Kosilek were not in prison for life without the possibility of parole, her accusations that the state has violated her rights might have might be slightly more practical. Maybe, if she were to be released from prison, she would like to start a family as a mother. Maybe she would like to become a wife. Maybe she would like to restart her life with a fixed identity, without the burdens produced by gender dysphoria.

But she will die in prison.

Whether or not Kosilek remains biologically male or becomes female, her gender will have no bearing on the rest of her life, so the state should absolutely not spend taxpayer money to provide a murderer with female parts that she will never use.

The argument appears to be that sexual reassignment surgery would alleviate her of mental suffering, but such an argument seems inconsistent. Kosilek was justly sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of her wife, yet there is concern about her mental state? To condemn Kosilek to spend her life rotting in a jail cell and then voice objections over her psychological well-being is ludicrous. You can put a man behind bars for over 20 years, but God forbid you force him to live the rest of his celibate life with a penis.

Kosilek’s case represents an overextension of constitutional rights, and sets a dangerous precedent. A murderer is a murderer, whether he or she is psychologically distraught or not. I have a problem with my money being used to make the life of Kosilek, a cold-blooded murderer, more comfortable, as any reasonable person should.

Steven Gillard is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]