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Transgender Inmate Fighting For Electrolysis

By Denise Lavoie, AP Legal Affairs Writer
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Michelle Kosilek

Michelle Kosilek

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BOSTON (AP) — Convicted murderer Michelle Kosilek fought for more than a decade before a federal judge in Massachusetts ordered prison officials to allow her to have a sex-change operation.

Kosilek is still fighting, this time for electrolysis treatments, another step she says she needs to complete her transformation into a woman.

Kosilek’s lawyers will be in court Monday to ask U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf to order the state Department of Correction to provide the hair removal treatments. The department is appealing his ruling ordering sex-reassignment surgery.

Kosilek was born male but has received hormone treatments and now lives as a woman in an all-male male prison, where she is serving a life sentence. Kosilek was named Robert when married to Cheryl Kosilek and convicted of murdering her in 1990.

Kosilek, now 63, received seven electrolysis treatments in 2008 to remove facial and chest hair. The DOC discontinued the treatments after finding she had already received significant hair removal and saying her remaining hair could be removed by shaving or using depilatories.

Her lawyers declined to comment on the electrolysis request but argued in court documents filed last month that the DOC provided electrolysis for a limited time “to keep the issue from being fully litigated at trial, showing further indifference to Kosilek’s serious medical needs.”

The DOC also declined to comment but argued in court documents that Kosilek is attempting to get treatments that have already been denied by the judge.

Wolf has twice rejected requests from Kosilek for additional electrolysis treatments, but ordered prison officials to have Kosilek evaluated by an independent expert on gender-identity disorder. An evaluation was done in 2010, but Kosilek’s lawyers objected to the use of a psychiatrist who works for the DOC, saying he could not be considered an independent expert.

In his Sept. 4 ruling ordering the DOC to provide Kosilek with sex-reassignment surgery, Wolf did not rule on the electrolysis request, saying the surgery “will be a material change in circumstances regarding any arguable serious medical need Kosilek may have for electrolysis.”

Kosilek’s lawyers filed a motion to amend Wolf’s ruling in October, asking that the judge require the appointment of an independent expert to evaluate Kosilek’s medical need for electrolysis. Wolf later ordered the DOC to provide the name of an independent expert who can give the court an opinion on whether Kosilek needs the electrolysis treatments if he orders an evaluation of Kosilek.

The DOC says Kosilek is not entitled to additional treatments.

Kosilek “is not seeking to correct an error of law or fact, but to relitigate the electrolysis issue raised at trial by obtaining new evidence and a rehearing,” the DOC argued in court documents this month.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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