Another transgender athlete has come out of the closet and is changing the way that we think about bodies and gender in the traditionally heteronormative sports world.
Janae Marie Kroc, 42, formerly known as Matt 'Kroc' Kroczaleski, announced her transition on Instagram after a video outing her as transgender began to go viral. According to her website, Kroc is "a world champion and world record holding powerlifter as well as a national caliber bodybuilder" -- and among the strongest athletes in the world. Now, Kroc is sharing her story as someone who, while preferring female pronouns, says she feels both hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine in very different ways.
Identifying as both transgender and gender fluid, Kroc describes herself as an "alpha male, girly girl, lesbian in a male body." She explained to The Huffington Post, "I use these descriptors because I feel they most accurately describe who I am, but the reality is that I am very complex and don’t fit into any of the boxes that society attempts to squeeze us into."
The Huffington Post chatted with Kroc this week about her decision to publicly come out, as well as what she hopes other transgender or gender fluid individuals take away from her story.
How do you identify? What does this mean to you?
I identity as both transgender and gender fluid and I describe myself as an alpha male, girly girl, lesbian in a male body... I don’t like labels because the second you use one, the person that hears the label is going to apply whatever they know about that to you and what that label means to them may be completely different than the message I am attempting to convey. And, unfortunately, today a lot of people still have a very inaccurate and negative view of what it means to be transgender. What’s important here is that this isn’t about being a boy or a girl or something in between -- it’s about being who you are, your true authentic self and there are a lot of people in this world that feel like I do and they’re afraid to be themselves for fear of hate and discrimination.
You've spoken in other interviews about how you embody both hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine characteristics. How do you navigate this identity? How does it affect your day-to-day life?
Being both hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine is something that people find to be very confusing. There is this assumption in society that masculinity and femininity are opposites and the more you possess of one the less you possess of the other. The reality is that people can and do possess differing amounts of both of these characteristics. These characteristics exist on a spectrum and one can express varying degrees of both masculinity and femininity ranging from nearly non-existent to extreme levels of both. This is why we are seeing new descriptors for gender identity like gender fluid, bigender, agender, genderqueer and a host of others as people are searching for accurate ways to describe who they really are. It is also important to note that how much of these traits a person possesses is independent of their physical sex, meaning that a genetic female can be very masculine and a genetic male can be very feminine.
Additionally, it is important to understand that there is more variance within a single gender than there is between the two. What I mean by this is that there is a greater range of masculinity and femininity within a gender than there is between the average male and average female.
Being a person that possesses an extreme amount of both masculinity and femininity makes my life a very difficult balancing act. It is hard to express one aspect without denying the other and this has left me often feeling like two completely different people both fighting for control of who I am. I often describe this as an internal civil war and the battle is being waged on a daily basis. On a day to day basis it is difficult to be myself without drawing negative reactions from society. People are confused by someone that carries the amount of muscle mass that I do but yet desires to dress in a feminine manner. This goes back to expected gender roles and how they are enforced in our society. Life is very difficult for anyone that expresses a high degree of the trait that is perceived to be opposite of their physical sex. For example, female bodybuilders are often ridiculed by society for being very muscular as this as often seen as something that only males should desire. And as such, very feminine men are also criticized for dressing and acting in a feminine manner. This is a huge problem today and prevents an enormous number of people from being who they are for fear of hate and discrimination. Few things will cause more animosity and aggression toward oneself than expressing yourself is a manner that society deems inappropriate for your gender. This is why we see transgender people being attacked and murdered at an alarming rate and why nearly half of all transgender people have attempted suicide. This is something we must address and bring understanding to.
Why did you decide to publicly share your journey to living as your authentic self? What do you want to accomplish?
Janae Marie Kroc: I actually planned to wait until my three sons graduated from high school to come out about being transgender but I was outed by a YouTube video that went viral. If my story was going to be told I wanted to make sure it was told correctly and I saw this as a great opportunity to do something positive for the transgender community. I always planned on coming out -- just not this soon because I did not want my boys to have to face possible ridicule and discrimination because of who their father is. High school is hard enough for kids without the additional burden of something like this.
What has the response been like for you coming out as transgender in the sports world?
The response has been very mixed. As I expected there has been hate, anger and people are saying some very cruel and hurtful things, but there has been a lot of support and love as well. I have honestly been overwhelmed by the amount of support I have received, especially from many of the elite level powerlifters and key figures in the sport. It saddens me to see the amount of animosity that still exists toward transgender people and that so much of it is based on ideas that are completely inaccurate. The amount of misinformation is what concerns me most. Educating people will go a long way toward ending this type of bigotry.
The social and political climate for trans people has changed dramatically over the past couple of years. What do you hope to see in the future?
The social and political climate has changed significantly over the last few years but we are still so far from where we need to be. While a lot of progress has been made we still have transgender people frequently being ostracized by their families and communities, fired from their place of employment, banned from organizations, and the suicide and murder rate is disproportionally high when compared against other segments of society. Until these problems are solved we still have a lot of work to do, and education and visibility are the keys to successfully solving these issues. Fortunately, we are moving in the right direction and I do see a future where transgender people will be accepted with open arms but we need to accelerate this process to bring this about this change at a much faster rate if we hope to save as many lives as possible
What do you want people to take away from your story?
What I want people to take away from my story is that it is perfectly okay to not fit into any boxes and that you do not have to conform to society’s expectations of who you are supposed to be. My story isn’t about being a man or a woman or being masculine or feminine. It is about being who you are and being comfortable and happy inside your own skin. We should all feel free to be whoever we are regardless of what that may be and this is essential if we are to be truly happy and at peace within ourselves.
Want to see more from Kroc? Head here to check out the athlete's website.