15 December 2008

Meet Catherine.

(AP Photo/Charlie Litchfield)

By JESSIE L. BONNER - Associated Press Writer
Edition Date: 12/13/08

PAYETTE, Idaho — For nearly a year, Catherine Carlson refused to pay the fine for driving with a suspended license because it was issued to both her and the man she used to be.

She went to jail four times over the ticket that includes both her legal name and the one she was born with, Daniel Carlson. She had surgery 28 years ago to become a woman, the gender she believes should have been assigned her at birth.

Carlson legally changed her name in the 1970s, but police and court records include both in this rural farming and ranching community east of the Snake River in southwestern Idaho.

"The ticket was the last straw," Carlson said.

Her fight against local authorities brought up questions Payette County had never answered before: where to house a transgender person in a jail with separate cells for men and women, which courthouse bathroom should she use, should the former male name be stricken from county records.

"This is a very conservative old-fashioned community, that's just the way it is. This is rural, small town Idaho. This is new to us," said Payette County Sheriff Chad Huff.

During the past year, Carlson repeatedly protested the $841 citation in court hearings on the case. Her struggle for acceptance since the sex-change operation on Thanksgiving Day 1980 has gone on much longer. She chose a life of solitude at a trailer park near the Payette city limits, rejecting a society she feels has rejected her.


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