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“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.”

Nathaniel Penn, in The New Republic, on convicted murderer Michelle Kosilek and her quest to have the state provide sexual-reassignment surgery. Read more from Penn in the Longreads Archive.

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