Storme Aerison is best-known in Colorado Springs for her eight-day stint in 1990 as a Coronado High School cheerleader which ended in her arrest when her peers noticed stubble sticking through her thick makeup.
At the time, Aerison who has used several aliases over the years actually was Charles Daugherty, a 26-year-old intersexed person, or hermaphrodite, whose parents never opted for sex-assignment surgery.
Her post-Coronado years yielded a phony modeling career that allegedly duped calendar companies, hotel managers and fashion crews around the globe out of thousands of dollars. Colorado Springs law enforcement eventually caught up with Aerison, and she was later placed in Pueblo's Mental Health Institute after a judge ruled her incompetent to stand trial in 2003, according to news reports.
Early this month, Aerison was deemed fit to show up in court to answer bond violation, fraud and theft charges. The undetermined trial date could bring an end to the defendant's 17-year romp as arguably Colorado Springs' most salacious character.
One problem remains: Aerison, who has legally changed her name and identified herself publicly as a "she" for years, is being held in a male ward at the county's Criminal Justice Center. A recent court document mentions Aerison's "fear of being sent to a male prison," while referring to the defendant at several points as "she." Yet Aerison's inmate profile is marked with a capital "M," for male.
"The information I have is that Storme is being considered a male, as far as we are concerned," says Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Clif Northam. Judge Edward S. Colt, who decided Aerison's placement, declined an interview for this story. The defendant's attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Aerison has used her intersexed status to avoid prosecution in the past. When she was arrested six years ago in Florida, she fought extradition to Colorado by contesting arrest warrants that listed her as a white female. She told a Florida judge she was a black male, according to past news reports.
Still, some see Aerison's current designation as unfair symbolic of a justice system that fits people into neatly defined "male" and "female" slots, though as many as an estimated 1 in 2,000 children are born with genitalia of both sexes.
"Intersexed means they have both parts," says Kate Bowman of Denver's Gender Identity Center. "They live that life in a real quandary, thinking they are freaks. Along comes society saying, "You are a freak, and we are going to lock you up with a bunch of men.'"
For Aerison's safety, she has been segregated from other inmates. She has zero contact with the men and women in the center, taking her meals alone.
"In a situation where a person is in between [a male and a female], that is reason to keep them away from both," explains Northam.
That helps, but it doesn't eradicate the larger issue, says Bowman, who claims her intersexed and transgendered friends have faced police abuse.
One, a former male, was subjected to a strip search even after presenting an officer with a valid ID that said "female." Another transgendered woman had the cops called on her when she walked into a women's restroom at a Denver bar.
"It is a phenomenon that nobody understands," says Bowman. "It is not something we choose. This is not a cakewalk."