It’s been quite a week for me. Without getting into details not relevant to the subject of this post, suffice to say it was one filled with all kinds of trans community related drama. So when I got home tonight and noticed there was some sort of controversy raging around a transgender inmate here in Massachusetts, I’ll be honest, I did everything I could to ignore it. I’m just about on trans-issue overload as it is.
I made dinner, chatted with my roommates, watched part of a documentary about Johnny Carson until it stopped working. Then watched some stuff about the great Improv director and teacher Del Close.
Then I made the mistake of going over to Facebook.
Why, oh why do I do these things? Of course all the drama was right there, flooding my feed. There were even a couple of messages from my Mother in my inbox, practically begging for my opinion. So, finally, mainly for my Mom and because, okay, I’m a transgender advice columnist, so it’s sort of what I do… I broke down and started surfing stories about Michelle Kosilek a convicted killer incarcerated right here in Massachusetts for the 1990 murder of her wife.
Kosilek, I should note for clarity, is also a transgender woman.
This is not the first time I’ve encountered her story. Kosilek started her male to female gender transition while in the custody of the State 12 years ago. She has also mutilated herself genitally and twice attempted suicide. Without going into too many details, what is important to know is that her Doctor diagnosed SRS (Sex Reassignment Surgery) to be a medical necessity in her case. A Federal Judge agreed with this earlier today and ordered the surgery to be provided by the State.
It will be completely unsurprising to anyone who has ever turned on the TV, Radio or Internet, or spoken to other human beings about anything out of the ordinary, and most especially about issues related to transgender folks, that this decision has caused a storm of controversy.
Those are the facts you need to know up front. And yes, you can bet I have an opinion all my own.
I will say that the controversy seems to break down along much less partisan lines than I usually see in trans related debates. I have seen both trans- and cisgender people who are shocked and appalled by this taxpayer funded freeloading surgery. And I have seen both cis- and transgender folks agreeing that this is a reasonable and progressive decision by the court.
Everybody though seems to agree that it’s a very uncomfortable controversy. “Wicked” uncomfortable even, this being Massachusetts. I mean, look, this a person who killed their wife and is serving life in prison for the crime. Not a nice individual. A criminal. A murderer!! And if I’m going to go ahead and be really bitchy and judgmental about it (hell, I am a Pageant Queen, I’m allowed bitchiness occasionally…), kinda friggin’ creepy looking. I mean, those eyes….
Anyway. The one thing that’s for certain is that no one who cares about trans issues wants Michelle Kosilek to be our postergirl. You can just almost picture the folks who have worked to oppose trans civil rights gleefully cackling like a Bond Villain, steepling their fingers while watching tonight’s news.
For our opponents, Michelle Kosilek must seem like the human embodiment of all the “Bathroom Panic” commercials used to scare people away from thinking critically and positively about Transgender Rights. Either that or as sure proof of the Immanentizing of the Eschaton (go ahead, look it up, it’s a fun surf).
But what does it all really boil down to? My dear readers who think so carefully about all things and never jump to hasty conclusions. I can hear you asking! What do you think Lorelei? Is this taxpayer funded freeloading? Enlightened legal progress? Guide us!
Ooooooooookay, since you put it that way.
First, let me be clear, like many of you, I’m ragingly jealous! Why should this murderer have surgery that I’m not sure I’ll EVER be able to afford myself, provided by our tax dollars?!?!?! Why, when most insurance plans routinely deny this necessary surgery to perfectly law abiding transgender folks, should an incarcerated felon get it for free???
Well, I’ll tell you why. Did you notice that phrase, “necessary surgery”?
Yeah, that’s really the only important thing here. Forget the heinous crime. Forget the super-creepiness of Kosilek herself. And remember only that a Medical Doctor has given a diagnosis that without this life-saving surgery, an incarcerated human being under the enforced care of the State is at risk.
You see, inmates aren’t allowed to provide for their own medical treatment. Or much of anything else for that matter. While they are incarcerated, and Kosilek is for life, we as “The State” are required to take care of their basic needs. We must feed them, house them, clothe them and if they are sick or broken, we have to try and fix them, make them healthy again.
For all of you who could give a Rat’s Ass about Trans Rights, this is the argument for you. If we are a just and fair society, we must support the decision of the trained medical personnel who care for our prisoners. If a Doctor deems a treatment necessary to the health of a person whose freedoms we have forcibly curtailed, we must not oppose that. For that way lies a slippery slope.
If we, as laypeople, can say our taxes will not save this life. Then where does it stop? Wouldn’t it ease the taxpayer burden to allow those awful rapists to be consumed by cancer? Should we really mend the broken hand of a sticky-fingered thief? What about the junky drug dealer who contracted Hepatitis from a dirty needle before he was even arrested? Do we save a few bucks off the ever-increasing deficit and say, “Sorry, no help for your suffering.”
No, I for one do not wish to live in a society that does not care for the least among us. Though it could be argued that is the case already…
Michelle Kosilek’s prison appointed Doctor has deemed this a necessary procedure. Therefor the Judge made the only ruling that was just and proper.
Not enough for you? Okay, this next argument is for my trans-peeps who are upset that a prisoner is getting treatment they themselves have been denied. Who hate that this heinous murderer is being handed the surgery we want so badly and so often struggle to attain.
I want you to breathe. Listen to me. Ready? Receptive?
Okay. This is legal precedent. Which is good.
A Federal Judge just said that a transgender/transsexual woman MUST be provided with SRS because it is a Medically Necessary Procedure. That’s HUGE. It opens up all kinds of avenues for good lawyers to argue that Insurance companies should cover SRS for all transgender people because a federal court has already ruled it medically necessary. And if it’s a procedure that’s considered life saving for an inmate, then how can the insurance companies properly justify denying it to regular law-abiding folks like you and me?
And I’m quite sure if I can see this argument, there must be some of our opponents of Transgender Civil Rights out there who see the same thing and are very, very nervous about the outcome of all this. Who will scream and fuss and cuss and do their damndest to strike this ruling down.
We may not much like our new postergirl. If you’re like me, she may actively give you the willies!! But we cannot have it both ways. If we are trying to tell people that SRS is something we need. Something we must have to be healthy, happy and whole. Then we cannot deny the necessity of this procedure for anyone. Even Michelle Kosilek.
So, I beg you to stop shouting at each other. It will only make the work of our opponents in the overall struggle that much easier. If we are already tearing at each other over this decision, they need hardly lift a finger to set us back.
I’m not asking you to like it. I’m not even asking you to go to work tomorrow and tell all your coworkers how awesome it is that this Convicted Wife Murderer is getting SRS…
I’m just asking you to think about it carefully and rationally. Think it all through. And if you agree with me, then at the very least, please don’t throw any more wood on the media fire.