Michelle, formerly known as Robert Kosilek, sued the Massachusetts Department of Correction for denying her a sex change operation, and won. Kosilek was convicted in 1990 for murdering then wife Cheryl after she had walked in on Robert wearing her clothes.
U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf's decision has caused an uproar, since the operation is estimated to cost Massachusetts tax payers around $20,000 (€15,825).
Judge Wolf ended what has been a 12-year struggle for Kosilek. Two years after first suing the state of Massachusetts in 2000, a ruling allowed for hormonal treatment for gender identity disorder.
According to the Seattle Times
, Wolf believes the previous ruling didn't recognize surgery as a viable treatment option because of "a fear of controversy, criticism, ridicule and scorn."
Kosilek's Attorney, Ben Klein, describes the procedure as a “a legitimate life-saving medical treatment for transgender people."
Wolf is treating Kosilek's gender identity disorder as he would a disease. He explains it causes the convict “intense mental anguish” which then “places him at high risk of killing himself if his major mental illness is not adequately treated."
State senator Scott Brown is one of the ruling's most vocal opponents. He sees gender reassignment surgeries as an “outrageous abuse” of taxpayer's funds. However, the amendment he filed in 2008 to stop this process failed to pass.
"We have many big challenges facing us as a nation, but nowhere among those issues would I include providing sex change surgery to convicted murderers," he says.
Wolf believes surgery is “adequate treatment" for Kosilek's disorder, and views himself as an advocate for convicts' equal rights to medical care.
“There is no less intrusive means to correct the prolonged violation of Kosilek's Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care," he argues.
Whether Kosilek will be placed in the women's ward or not after the surgery is completed is just one of the questions that linger after this much-debated trial has come to an end.