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Monday
Nov192012

Transgender Inmate Michelle Kosilek Fighting for Electrolysis

WCVB/ABC News(BOSTON) -- A convicted wife killer, who has been living as a woman in an all-male prison facility in Massachusetts, is fighting for electrolysis treatments while the Department of Corrections appeals a judge's earlier decision to grant the inmate gender reassignment surgery.

Lawyers for Michelle Kosilek, 63, who was born Robert, were to appear in federal court Monday to argue that the hair removal treatments are a necessary part of Kosilek's physical transformation into a woman.

Kosilek's attorneys wrote in court documents that she was initially granted the electrolysis treatments "to keep the issue from being fully litigated at trial, showing further indifference to Kosilek's serious medical needs."

In September, a federal judge ordered Massachusetts prison officials to provide Kosilek, who was convicted in the 1990 strangulation death of her wife, Cheryl, sexual reassignment surgery, calling it the only way to correct the "prolonged violation" of the inmate's Constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled that Michelle Kosilek had experienced "intense mental anguish," and said there was a "serious medical need" for her to have the procedure.

"It has long been well-established that it is cruel for prison officials to permit an inmate to suffer unnecessarily from a serious medical need," the judge wrote in his 128-page decision.

He called it "unusual" to treat a prisoner with gender identity disorder differently "than the numerous inmates suffering from more familiar forms of mental illness."

Kosilek has tried to castrate herself and has attempted suicide twice, Wolf noted in his ruling.

Prison officials have said if Kosilek had the surgery she could be a target for sexual assaults, among other security risks, according to court documents.

Wolf said those concerns were "either pretextual or can be dealt with."

The court left the decision of where to house Kosilek after her surgery to the Department of Corrections.

The Department of Corrections offered no immediate comment but said it planned to explore its appellate options.

Kosilek first sued the Department of Corrections in 2000. Two years later, Wolf ruled she should receive treatment for gender identity disorder, which included hormones. Kosilek sued again in 2005, again asking for gender reassignment surgery.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio