Payette Transgender Woman Awaits Arson, Weapons Trial in Isolation

Boise Weekly City Desk Jody May-Chang

By Jody May-Chang
Originally published on Dec. 7, 2010

Monday, Dec. 6, Catherine Carlson, 53, was in Payette Country Court for a preliminary hearing after a psychological evaluation earlier this month deemed her competent to stand trial.

After over an hour of testimony by city and county officials and first responders to the July 11 incident where Carlson set fire to her Payette trailer, Judge A. Lynn Krogh, found “probable cause” to proceed with the case. Carlson is scheduled to be arraigned on January 7 where a trial date will likely be set.

Facing up to 40 years in state prison, Carlson said she sees herself a martyr for an issue she has been fighting in Idaho for several years: dignity and respect for transgender citizens.

Carlson is a transgender woman who had a legal name change in California as a prerequisite to sexual reassignment surgery she had 30 years ago.

According to Carlson, the state of Idaho was not aware of her male history until it was revealed in court over a civil matter more than a decade ago by her own mother. Carlson said ever since Idaho has listed her male name as an a.k.a. despite her efforts to have the name removed.

Carlson said she was frustrated by being outed with every traffic stop or ID check by police and having that information broadcasted over police scanners., Carlson said it “puts a target on her back” in the small conservative rural community where she lives.

Catherine Carlson Transgender Woman Payette County JailAsked if she plans to plead guilty, Carlson told City Desk, “Of course I am not going to plead guilty, the reason I did what I did is because they refuse to let me live my life, so it’s up to them to do something with my life.” Carlson said if police and officials, “want to be bigots it’s going to cost them,” referring to the cost of a trial and prison.

Payette Country Sheriff, Chad Huff, told City Desk, although Carlson has been a “model inmate” she is being kept in isolation in the old jail and that Carlson is within earshot of male inmates. Asked why Carlson is not being held with other females, Huff said, “That is on the advice of my legal counsel. That is why we put her in a separate cell.” Huff reason, “that’s just what [legal counsel] told me so I follow the advice of my attorneys.” Where Carlson is being kept she is observed by male jailers where in the female pod, Huff says there is a female jailer on duty at all times.

In contrast, Kristina Ross, a male-to-female transgender woman currently in Ada County Jail on another matter, is being held in general population with other female inmates.
CORRECTION: Kristina Ross, a male-to-female transgender woman currently in Ada County Jail is listed as female and is housed on the female side of the jail. However, she is not in general population as previously reported. Ross is being held in Administrative Segregation.