Should the State Have to Pay for a Trans Inmate’s Hair Removal Procedures?


Michelle Kosilek is currently serving a life sentence for murder. Prison time, it turns out, really gets in the way of moving ahead with your MTF transitioning plans.

Sentenced for strangling her then-wife Cheryl Kosilek back in 1990, Michelle used to be Robert, before legally changing her name in prison. Then she began lobbying Massachusetts State to pay for her sex change operation, which set off a whole litany of courtroom proceedings and talk radio punchlines. A decision still hasn’t been made, but in the interim, Michelle has been trying to eliminate her body hair with electrolysis treatments — and now she wants the state to pay for those, too.

That request, a judge just decided, was too much. While U.S. District Court Judge Mark L. Wolf acknowledged “that hair is an excruciatingly painful reminder of her status as a male,” he also noted Kosilek appears to be doing just fine living as a woman inside an men’s prison. (He also reminded the court that the cost of the Department of Corrections’ legal team fighting Kosilek’s request probably costs more than the electrolysis itself.)

Naturally, what Kosilek is “suffering” from is gender identity disorder, which is that negative-sounding classification that’s sometimes necessary to make the case that this is a medical problem, not a cosmetic one, and medical problems require medical solutions, like surgery and hormone treatments. And while prison and trans-rights advocates will likely side with Kosilek, we’re still on the fence about whether letting Kosilek remain in prison with body hair constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Your thoughts?

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