A transgender inmate who is the subject of a controversial decision allowing for her sex change surgery is battling to continue electrolysis treatments while the Department of Correction wants to stay the surgery during its appeal.
Michelle Kosilek, who was born Robert, was in federal court with her team of lawyers Monday as a judge heard arguments on various issues in the case. Kosilek killed her wife, Cheryl in Mansfield in 1990. Judge Mark Wolf ordered earlier this year that the DOC must allow for and pay for Kosilek’s sex change surgery because she suffers from gender identity disorder and not allowing the surgery is a violation of her Eighth Amendment rights.
Kosilek is seeking an order to continue her electrolysis treatment to remove hair because it causes her distress. It was stopped after six sessions and the reason why was not immediately clear.
"I do feel strongly, though, that it's time for sanctions and electrolysis in this case," said Frances Cohen, Kosilek's attorney.
Cohen quizzed Dr. Robert Diener, the chief psychiatrist of the DOC, about his evaluation of Kosilek's need for electrolysis and asked him repeatedly why he didn't ask her to grow out her facial hair as he was making his determination.
Diener said he believed Kosilek was exaggerating how much hair she had and that her view was distorted.
Diener also testified that another clinician told him that the reason the treatments were stopped was because they cost too much.
However, a DOC attorney produced some of Kosilek's mental health records that indicated it was stopped because "her response was not as good as hoped." Clinicians recommended Kosilek use Nair or other hair removal techniques instead.
The DOC is also seeking to halt the sex change surgery while the agency appeals the decision.
Wolf said he would likely issue written rulings on the issues Tuesday.
Kosilek, who has been undergoing sex change treatment and taking hormones for years, requested that the court refer to her as a woman and use female pronouns.
She appeared in court Tuesday wearing a blue sweater and appearing to wear lipstick. Her hair was long and past her shoulders.
In his rulings, Wolf has referred to Kosilek as "he."
"The plaintiff, I believe, is a male with a major mental illness," Wolf said.
By the numbers
Also at issue were Kosilek's lawyer fees, which before Monday's hearing totaled about $800,000. Because the judge ruled in favor of Kosilek, the DOC would have to pay the fees. Wolf said Monday that the $800,000 "may go up" as litigation continues.
What is electrolysis?
Electrolysis permanently removes hair by using a probe to send an electrical current alongside the hair follicle to destroy the root. According to an informal survey of several Boston-area skin care centers, most clients require between 8-15 treatments every two weeks at a cost ranging from $25 to $95 per treatment, depending on the client's needs.