The current issue of The New Republic features an entirely sympathetic profile of Michelle (né Michael) Kosilek, who was convicted of killing then-his wife Cheryl in May of 1990. For the past 20 years, Kosilek has been incarcerated at the medium-security men’s correctional institution MCI Norfolk. For the past seven, Kosilek has been waging a legal battle for state-funded sexual-reassignment surgery (SRS).
While the state of Massachusetts has fought and foot-dragged every step of the way, the courts have generally sided with Kosilek.
So has The New Republic. Third graf:
To suffer from gender dysphoria (G.D.), as Michelle Kosilek does, is to exist in a real state for which our only frame of reference may be science fiction. You inhabit a body that other people may regard as perfectly normal, even attractive. But it is not yours. That fact has always been utterly and unmistakably clear to you, just as the fact that she has put on someone else’s coat by accident is clear to a third-grader. This body has hair where it shouldn’t, or doesn’t where it should. Its hands and feet are not the right sizes, its hips and buttocks and neck are not the right shapes. Its odors are nauseating. To describe the anguish a G.D. patient suffers, psychiatrists will allude to Gregor Samsa in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis: For Michelle Kosilek, the gulf between human being and insect is precisely as wide as that between woman and man.
When reporter Nathaniel Penn, a correspondent fro GQ, visits Kosilek in prison, he waxes even more empathetic.
In photographs, she has the proud but deluded air of someone who doesn’t realize she’s not quite pulling this off, but in person her features are smaller and finer. She is persuasively a woman, even a pleasant-looking one. “Bless you!” she exclaimed when I told her so. She clasped my hand. Then she scrutinized me and said: “Is that what this visit was all about? You wanted to see?”
And then there’s this conclusion to the piece:
[I]n ways both glaringly obvious and hidden, Michelle Kosilek is not the same person she was on the day she killed her wife. It’s an essential human project to seek not only to endure as the years pass but also to try to change for the better, however you define that. If Kosilek is putting on a show of remorse, it may be because the murder she committed is as distant in her memory as the things you did two decades ago are in yours. It’s a terrible truth about people who cause pain to others: They move on. The question is, should we?
In the case of Michelle Kosilek, the better question might be can we? The letters to the editor in the next issue might give us a hint.