A transsexual serving a life sentence for murder has asked the State that jailed her to pay for a sex change operation.

Michelle, 57, formerly Robert Kosilek, was married to a woman called Cheryl, but was jailed after strangling her in 1990.

In 2002 a judge ruled that she was suffering from gender identity disorder but did not order the state to pay for a sex change.

A psychiatrist yesterday told a Massachusetts court he believed the prisoner, who has received female hormone treatments, laser hair removal and counselling, would kill herself if refused complete surgery.

Her lawyer, Frances Cohen, said: “We ask that gender identity disorder be treated like any other medical condition.”

Michelle has previously tried to kill and castrate herself, the court heard.

The Department of Correction’s lawyer, Richard McFarland, said surgery was refused because the prisoner may become a target for attacks.

The case is expected to last two weeks.