NCTE Joins Brief in Michelle Kosilek Case

Michelle Kosilek

The National Center for Transgender Equality is proud to have joined seven other organizations last week in filing a friend-of-the-court brief with the First Circuit federal appeals court in the case of Kosilek v. Spencer. The case, which has received significant public attention in recent months, is the latest in a series in which Massachusetts prison officials have refused to provide medically necessary treatment to transgender prisoners. In September, a federal court ordered the state to provide sex reassignment surgery for Michelle Kosilek after prison doctors determined it was the only adequate treatment for her severe gender dysphoria.

NCTE’s position in this case is driven by two core principles: First, that hormonal, surgical, and other medical treatments for gender dysphoria are medically necessary for many people and should be treated like any other medically necessary care, based on the medical needs of an individual as determined by qualified medical providers; and second, that people who are incarcerated and cannot provide for their own care have an unquestionable, constitutional right to adequate medical care. Participation in cases like this one is critical to establishing the legitimacy and necessity of treatments for gender dysphoria and ensuring all people have access to adequate health care in every setting.
Our friend-of-the-court brief, submitted by NCTE together with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), EqualityMaine, the Human Rights Campaign, MassEquality, Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and TransGender New Hampshire, argues that:
  1. The Massachusetts Department of Corrections’s actions in denying medically necessary sex reassignment surgery reflect – and, sadly, affirm – the deeply-rooted discomfort with transgender people prevalent in our society. Transgender people are subject to widespread negative attitudes and social disapproval and face discrimination at alarming rates in every sphere of society. Transgender people have not achieved the gains in social acceptance and understanding that lesbians and gay men have; the place of transgender people in our society is more akin to what lesbians and gay men experienced decades ago.
  2.  DOC’s conduct also reflects the disparity between the scientific consensus that sex reassignment surgery is essential medical care and the popular perception that it is frivolous and bizarre. A long history of sensationalized accounts of “sex change” operations from the 1930s to the present has significantly contributed to this public misunderstanding. In fact, there has been a relative scarcity of media that advances in the popular consciousness an accurate medical understanding of the need for sex reassignment surgery and the profound harm caused by withholding such treatment.
Kosilek v. Spencer will be argued before the appeals court in April, and a decision is expected later in 2013 or early 2014.
Read the full brief below or download it here.
View this document on Scribd
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15 Responses to NCTE Joins Brief in Michelle Kosilek Case

  1. Pamela morke says:

    So let me get this straight. If I have committed a crime and am sent to prison, I as a person with GID or gender dysphoria can get reassignment surgery. But being an honorably discharged vet the V.A. says no we won’t cover that it is experiment surgery. Can some please explain the logic.

    • SLN says:

      The logic is that everyone who needs/desires srs deserves it. The logic is that the V.A. needs to be fought with so that vets who need srs can get it. It is never okay to argue “I can’t get access, so no one should.” We must argue “All should get access, so all providers of healthcare need to change their policies.” The battle for Michelle is but one battle on this front, as a battle to get the VA to change their policy is another.

      • I’m not arguing that, I have a problem with my money paying for her SRS… If she raises the money, then yes she should be allowed access, but I’ll fight it every way I can if I have to pay for something I can’t afford for myself..

  2. SLN says:

    The logic is that everyone who needs/desires srs deserves it. The logic is that the V.A. needs to be fought with so that vets who need srs can get it. It is never okay to argue “I can’t get access, so no one should.” We must argue “All should get access, so all providers of healthcare need to change their policies.” The battle for Michelle is but one battle on this front, as a battle to get the VA to change their policy is another.

    • SLN says:

      whoops, sorry for the double post.

      • Pamela morke says:

        It was not my intent to argue what you are accusing me of, I simply was pointing out that I am very frustrated with the refusal of the government to understand our problem. I must somehow find in excess of $25,000. I support your brief in her name

  3. Carolyn Ann says:

    “It is never okay to argue “I can’t get access, so no one should.””

    Has anyone actually argued that? As far as I know, the argument against giving Kosilek the surgery is about who has to pay for it, along with the perfectly legitimately moral questions surrounding if *she* should get it.

    While there are extremely interesting, and difficult, questions about the morality of the whole Kosilek situation to be had, I’m not sure anyone serious has advanced the idea that if Kosilek doesn’t get the surgery then no one should. There are some basic questions of fairness that your assertion, SLN, is avoiding.

    (There seems to be something wrong with WordPress’ comment system, so if this is a double-post, my apologies.)

  4. I don’t agree, she is a convicted MURDERER, and now my tax dollars will go to pay for her SRS.. No, I can’t stand behind this when I’m forced to go through life as a law abiding citizen that will never be able to afford it. Let her rot in a cell with her original equipment… I’m trapped in a life I do not wish to lead, and I still have the decency to follow the law.. Who do I have to kill to get mine?

  5. If the medical necessity argument is so rock solid then why apply such a focus to just prisoners? I think they should have access, but not sole representation in trying to get it. If the FOIA response I got from CMS is to be believed, there hasn’t been a serious attempted to challenge Medicare National Coverage Determination 140.3, that bans transsexual surgery, since 1999. Really? How are the disabled or seniors w/o means any less vulnerable? I hate to go all utilitarian, but wouldn’t at least part of those legal resources be better allocated to advocating for people who at least still have voting rights…the ability to advocate more for our community? To trying to KEEP them out of a life situation that leads to prison too?

    • Jennifer Skahen says:

      Agreed, why this case? Has the transgender community become so selfish, so “advance at all costs,” that Medicare goes unchallenged, the VA continues to deny coverage, but instead it gets behind a convicted spouse killer? Look at the big picture, we’re told. But I can’t now, or ever, get past using a convicted murderer to advance an agenda, when all of these other things, which are much more worthy, in my opinion, sit there with no action.

  6. […] year ordered the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to provide sex reassignment surgery for Michelle Kosilek, a transgender woman serving a sentence for murder. He ruled that the state had violated the […]

  7. […] year ordered the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to provide sex reassignment surgery for Michelle Kosilek, a transgender woman serving a sentence for murder. He ruled that the state had violated the […]

  8. […] year ordered the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to provide sex reassignment surgery for Michelle Kosilek, a transgender woman serving a sentence for murder. He ruled that the state had violated the […]

  9. […] in 2012 ordered the Massachusetts Department of Corrections to provide sex reassignment surgery for Michelle Kosilek, a transgender woman serving a sentence for murder. He ruled that the state had violated the […]

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