A Judge Put A Prisoner's Sex-Change Surgery on Hold

It'd be difficult to overturn a surgery on appeal, after all...

Federal Judge Mark Wolf put on hold the sex-reassignment surgery he ordered Massachusetts to provide a transggender prisoner Tuesday, because the state is appealing his decision. Wolf made history when he decided that the state must provide Michelle Kosilek, a male-to-female inmate convicted of murdering his (now her) wife. Tuesday’s news reveals a couple things about Wolf’s thinking: 

First, as much as Wolf respected Kosilek’s argument that sex reassignment surgery is a medical, not cosmetic, need, he also respects the legal process that allows for parties to appeal decisions. If  Massachusetts won an appeal from a higher court after the surgery went ahead, there wouldn’t be much way to honor it.

Second, his comments Tuesday, as quoted in a Globe report, show he’s aware that he’s stepped pretty far out front of public opinion on this. He says his decision is “unpopular and misunderstood.” The ruling hinged on the testimony of doctors who say reassignment surgery is the only proper treatment for the psychological issues Kosilek experiences. Plenty of people have disagreed with that idea, (including those at the Boston Herald, which doesn’t even agree with the AP and other major organizations that Kosilek ought to be referenced with female pronouns.) Wolf may have more sympathy for Kosilek’s plight than most, but he also has respect for the rights of plaintifs in our justice system to take their case as far as the courts will allow.