On Jan. 12, Kristina Ross, who is accused of posing as a plastic surgeon and fondling women in local bars, is scheduled to enter a plea in Ada County Court. Before the hearing, during two visits to the Ada County Jail where she is held in protective custody on a $100,000 bond, Ross spoke exclusively to BW. She said the only thing she is guilty of is being a "bull shitter."
Ross was arrested Nov. 17, 2010, and charged with two felony counts of practicing medicine without a license. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
"I did not ever think you could get thrown in jail for lying in a bar," said Ross. "Guys told me all the time they were doctors or police and they lied. I was just playing the game."
According to Boise Police, Ross, using the name Berlyn Aussieahshowna, convinced two victims that "she was a female plastic surgeon ... by diagnosing a breast condition through a physical exam and offering to provide surgery. The victims were convinced as though they were [Ross'] patients," but found out later "that Kristina was not a licensed medical doctor nor a female."
"I never touched anyone," Ross told BW.
She said the first incident occurred in a Meridian bar on Halloween. Ross said she was dressed as Catwoman, complete with a black latex bikini and a whip. Ross said she had a conversation with a woman dressed as a "naughty nurse" about breast enlargement surgery.
By Ross's account, the second incident took place at Humpin' Hannah's in Boise, where she claims to be a regular and people know she is "full of shit."
In a conversation with a bartender, Ross said the woman behind the bar wanted to show her something. Ross said the two went to the bathroom where Ross claims the bartender opened her cardigan, revealing a tank top. Ross told BW that it was easy to see one breast was considerably smaller and lower than the other. Ross admits telling the woman that it looked like a deflated implant and she would need surgery.
Ross said she gave the women what she admitted to be "bogus information." Ross said she made up the address and phone number to a doctor, but Boise Police say both women, from Meridian and Boise, called a legitimate medical office, asking for appointments. Suspicious, the doctor's office called law enforcement. BW has learned the medical office is that of Boise plastic surgeon Susan Hegstad, whose office confirmed that they were "cooperating with the investigation."
The case took a twist and quickly garnered national attention when Ada County Prosecutor Ana Mamani said at Ross' Nov. 17 arraignment, "The most concerning facts here are that the defendant is not a doctor and that the defendant is a male touching a woman's breast under the guise of being a female."
Instantly the story evolved from a groping incident into a felony highlighting Ross' transgender identity.
Camille Brandt, Ross's former roommate, said her transsexual support group was upset with how Ross was portrayed in court and by the media.
"She's not some guy that decided to put on a wig," said Brandt. "That is really insulting."
Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Jean Fisher told BW although Mamani's remarks were "unartful," she said she did not think the statement was about Ross being transgender.
"There is a concern, obviously, that perhaps this is a sexual assault in nature," said Fisher. "[It] doesn't really have anything to do with our charging decisions at all. I think if that is an issue that comes up, that is something for the experts to look at."
"I'm not a male," said the 37-year-old Ross, who described herself instead as a heterosexual woman living as a full-time female since she was 12 years old. Currently Ross is being held in solitary confinement on the women's side of the jail. Her identification bracelet says "Sex: F," while the police report indicates "Sex: M."
Sitting just feet away separated only by a clear partition at the Ada County lockup, it was difficult to see Ross as anything but a woman, even in jailhouse orange and without make-up. Ross appeared to have breasts and her alabaster complexion showed no signs of facial or arm hair. Her voice and mannerisms were demonstrated as very feminine.
This is not Ross' first time behind bars. In 2003 she was convicted of aggravated battery and spent two years in Idaho's maximum security men's prison. Prison records indicated Ross' gender as MTF, male to female.
Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, said, "By calling the defendant a 'man pretending to be a woman,' Prosecutor Mamani's comments were ill-informed and potentially inflammatory. The substantive issue is not the defendant's gender, but allegations that she misrepresented herself as a doctor. Legally, the fact that Ross is transgender doesn't matter."
Emilie Jackson-Edney, transgender educator and advocate worried about a fair trial.
"In our society and culture transgender people face alienation, hatred and misunderstanding and are told by religious institutions they are an abomination," said Jackson-Edney. "I know a lot of trans people who are productive citizens who are living their lives with good relationships and families."
Ross admitted to low self-esteem and even suicidal thoughts.
"I just wanted people to like and respect me. When you have been discriminated against over and over again, it changes you," said Ross. "It's weird that a flap of skin that means nothing to me, means so much to everyone else. Instead of bigotry, everyone thinks it is a moral judgment, something dirty, a fetish or a perversion."