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More Than Meets the Eye: Janae Kroc

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An Interview with Transgender ‘Transformer’ Janae Kroc

Janae-1 More Than Meets the Eye: Janae KrocYou don’t mess with Janae Kroc. One look at her and you’ll see why.

Born Matthew Raymond Kroczaleski, Janae – the transgender subject of the award-winning documentary Transformer – is a former Marine who made a name for herself (as Matt) as a competitive powerlifter and bodybuilder. In 2009, she set the male world record in the 220-pound weight class with 2,551 pounds. And while she’s not as powerful as she used to be (in the physical sense at least), she can still squash you like a bug: Last year, 18 months into her estrogen therapy, Janae lifted 210 pounds for 10 reps and deadlifted 605 pounds.

Recently, she has accelerated her transition from male to female, an evolution a decade-plus in the making, which has come with its own set of challenges.

In this new interview, Janae opens up about the discrimination she’s faced since coming out; how the bodybuilding community has both shunned and embraced her; raising three well-adjusted, supportive sons (she and their mother divorced as a result of her coming out); the long, costly road to gender-reassignment surgery; and how some burdens weigh more than any barbell she’s ever touched.


Mikey Rox: Janae – as Matt, you were a world champion powerlifter, badass bodybuilder, and a spokesperson for dietary supplement brand MuscleTech. You revealed in your new documentary Transformer, which screened at Miami’s OUTshine Film Festival recently, that you lost the latter gig after coming out as transgender. How did that happen?

transformer More Than Meets the Eye: Janae KrocJanae Kroc: MuscleTech actually found out that I was transgender several months before I was outted publicly. They had been sent some old pictures from my Facebook page, which was private at the time, and called me to ask if it was true. I immediately confirmed that it was and that, yes, I was in fact transgender and had been very open about it for years. They told me they were having a board meeting concerning this and would let me know their decision in a few days. When they contacted me again they were very clear that the reason they were letting me go was because of me being transgender. They immediately pulled all of my content from their websites and media advertising, cancelled all of my scheduled appearances for the remainder of the year, and informed me they would not be renewing my contract. They stated that while they were very happy with the job I had done for them over the previous eight years and really liked me as a person they felt that it would be very bad PR for them and it would hurt sales, especially overseas in the more conservative cultures.

MR: What’s your take on this, and is there any recourse for what amounts to blatant discrimination?

While this was clearly discrimination and I would have been protected under Canadian law had I chosen to pursue legal action (MuscleTech is based in Toronto), the job I was hired to do for them was very different than most. They had hired me solely to represent their products and to be one of the faces of their company. That was my job for them and what they were paying me to do. Even though I was shocked and I felt they made a very poor decision, the way I saw this was that if they didn’t want their company represented by a transgender person then that was their prerogative. I do feel that they missed a huge opportunity to do the right thing and that this will come back to haunt them in the future, but I chose not to pursue legal action against them.

MR: You’re in a similar position as Caitlyn Jenner being a world champion record and medal holder. When she was transitioning, there was a petition to revoke her Olympic medals because “Bruce” had won them and not Caitlyn. Ultimately the IOC took no action in that regard, but how do you feel about that personally?

JK: I feel that entire premise is absurd and merely a veil for extreme bigotry. Of course Caitlyn should be allowed to keep her medals, and anything I had accomplished in my life prior to transition was still achieved by me and I still deserve whatever accolades go along with those accomplishments.

Janae3 More Than Meets the Eye: Janae KrocMR: Do you feel like Matt is a separate person from Janae?

JK: I see Matt as simply a part of who I am. All of the traits I possessed as Matt that allowed me to achieve the things I did are still within me. Matt was simply a limited version of who I am; he was just a portion of who I am today. I will say that there are certainly differences between Matt and Janae, and my reactions to certain situations are markedly different now than they would have been in the past, but I still don’t view him as a separate person. I still lived through all of those experiences and they helped shape me into the person I am today. I see my current self as the evolution of who I am, and I am still evolving all the time.

MR: You came out to your three boys 13 years ago when they were young, and they’re each very well adjusted to your transition. That, for me, was probably the best part of Transformer – seeing how they interact with and accept you as you are. But have they always been so accepting? Were there any times when they pushed back, and how did you overcome that?

JK: Everyone is always shocked to hear this but it is the absolute truth: They have always been 100% supportive and accepting of who I am. Since I told them at such a young age, they had not yet been conditioned by society to view being transgender as a bad thing, so to them it was just another aspect of who I am. And since I never demonstrated any shame or gave them any reason to view it negatively, they have never had any reason to see it as something bad.

MR: Have they encountered any bullying as a result of the film? How have they dealt with that?

JK: Before I was outted publicly, we had discussed for many years the potential of me being outted and how they might be affected by that and how we should handle it. It was my biggest concern and why I had not come fully out publicly sooner. Fortunately, nothing has really changed for them. Some of their friends have asked questions or joked about it and we have heard rumors about other parents saying nasty things about me, but no one has ever said anything to our faces and they have not faced any discrimination as a result. I am also fortunate that all three of my boys are very secure in who they are, and any teasing from other kids does not have much of an effect on them. I think they have seen how I have handled all of the hate directed toward me and that has helped them to develop a similar attitude toward what other people might say or do. We recognize that when people say horrible things about me, it really says a lot more about them as a person than it does me.

MR: You revealed yourself as Janae to your mom for the first time in the documentary, and naturally she was anxious about it. I read on your Instagram, though, that she actually decided on your female name. I’m guessing you asked her to do that. Did that help her along her path to acceptance?

JK: The truth is my mom didn’t actually pick my name per se, but she did have a hand in helping me to decide on Janae. Janae was the name my mom had picked for me had I been born female. She told me that when I was a child and it always stuck with me. I thought it was a pretty name and unique, so when the time came to decide on a new name, Janae was the obvious choice for me.

Janae4 More Than Meets the Eye: Janae KrocMR: What’s your relationship like with your mom today?

JK: Unfortunately not much has changed. She has still only seen me as Janae the one time you see in the film. I have not gone to the family Christmas or other holiday celebrations in years as it’s clear that she’s concerned that my presence will make other people uncomfortable. I know this has been very difficult for my mom, and I try to keep in mind what kind of person she is. She does not handle any type of change well, and her primary coping mechanism is avoidance so this behavior is to be expected of her. I also feel bad because I know that still living in the small town where I grew up, she has had to endure a lot because of me coming out. People will walk up to her and say nasty things about me, and even her own mother – my grandma – has told my mom that it’s her fault for not instilling more religion in me. I try to keep those things in mind, but I also know that deep down she loves me – and that will never change. I think she will eventually come around, but it’s going to take me pushing her a bit to get her there.

MR: In the documentary, your dad, who you admitted was rather absent during your upbringing, said some pretty offensive but fairly typical things about your situation, specifically that he would “freak” if he saw you as Janae. Has that happened?

JK: My dad still hasn’t seen me as Janae yet, although that may change soon. Like my relationship with my mom, not much has really changed since the footage in the film was shot. He still hopes I’ll change my mind and thinks this is a mistake. However, he has said that no matter what happens he still wants me to be a part of his life, so that feels really good to know. I think, like my mom, he’ll eventually come around, but it will take some pushing from my end. We’ll see if he actually does “freak” when he meets Janae for the first time. [Laughs]

MR: You touched briefly on your sexual orientation in the film, expressing that you’re still attracted to women but open to dating a man. Can you explain that?

JK: Like my gender identity, my sexual orientation is somewhat blurry. I have always been very attracted to women and still am. I have never really found men attractive, but as a woman it does feel very natural to be in the feminine role with a man. I am open to dating whomever I feel a strong connection to, and it really has more to do with who they are as a person than their gender or genitals.

MR: Are you dating?

JK: Currently I am not dating, but I have recently met someone that I am very interested in. We actually met at the film festival in Toronto. We are still getting to know each other so who knows what will happen, but I will say that I could see this having long-term potential. I guess time will tell.

Janae5 More Than Meets the Eye: Janae KrocMR: If I may be more personal, has your hormone regimen affected to which gender you’re more or less attracted?

JK: They did not have any effect on who I am attracted to, although my body and self-perception have changed; the idea of dating men has become a more realistic possibility. As a male I had no interest in men whatsoever but as a woman I am at least open to the idea.

MR: You attended a local powerlifting competition in the film where a young straight male fan that idolized you praised you for your courage in coming out as transgender. I was blown away, frankly. That seems rather atypical given the often-toxic masculinity associated with this sport, so how did that encounter feel? Does that sort of thing happen often?

JK: Actually, there has been a lot more support from the powerlifting world than most people would expect given the sport’s reputation for an overabundance of testosterone, and I deeply appreciate every single person that has stood by me. Overall I would say the reaction to my coming out has been 50-50. About half of the community has been extremely supportive just like the guy you see in the film, and the other half has been more or less like most people would expect. I have had people message me privately to tell me they have burned the posters that I signed for them previously and other crazy things like that. The responses on public forums when I came out were even worse, but it was also mixed with a lot of people supporting me against the transphobic bigots. The women of the strength-training community have actually been my biggest allies, and I can’t thank them enough for welcoming me into their sisterhood and supporting me the way they do.

MR: You have really amazing bodybuilding friends – big, macho dudes – who have not only accepted you but seem to be incredibly compassionate and open with you. Did you expect that?

JK: When I first started coming out to my friends a little over 10 years ago, the process was extremely difficult and I was very unsure of what to expect. I was afraid they wouldn’t understand and that I would lose a lot of friends, but as I told them one by one, every single one of them has stuck by me and supported me 100%. I am very fortunate to have such good friends and so many close relationships. I think it helped that I was very open and honest and allowed myself to be vulnerable with them. They could see I was being sincere and how difficult it was for me. I think it speaks volumes about the quality of friends I have, and for that I will be forever thankful.

MR: In the film, you talked about how cost-prohibitive gender reassignment surgery is. Where are you at in the transition process?

JK: For the average adult trans woman to fully transition, it can often cost up to $100,000, and for trans men, even more. Personally, I have already spent $70,000 to $80,000, and I am still not finished. I am in the process of scheduling my bottom surgery right now and hope to get that done as soon as possible, but realistically it will probably be at least late this year or early next year before I am able to make that happen. Fortunately, more and more insurances in the United States are covering transgender surgeries and I really hope that trend continues.

As far as other procedures go, I am definitely going to look more into hair transplant surgery as not having to wear a wig would be huge for me. With my active lifestyle and love for the water, wigs just aren’t practical, and without one on it becomes very difficult for me to present as female with my very short and very thin hair. I am still very interested in breast augmentation surgery, but as long as I remain very muscular it is difficult to achieve a natural look so for now I am holding off on that. I also may revisit vocal feminization surgery at some point as the results from my first surgery aren’t as good as I was hoping. While my voice has definitely improved, I still view it as being more masculine than feminine and typically get read as male over the phone. The only other thing I would like to add in regard to my transition is that I also still identify as gender fluid and non-binary and my gender presentation varies from day to day. Some days I present completely feminine, but at other times more masculine. I continue to move in a more feminine direction, but it’s difficult to say where exactly I will end up and whether or not I will complete what most people would view as a full transition.

MR: Post-bodybuilding career, what are you goals now?

JK: As far as my training is concerned I still want to remain muscular and strong but lean and not quite as big as I was previously. I still waffle somewhat about whether or not to drop a significant amount of weight and transition into a more “athletic look” but for now that is on hold.

In regard to my overall life, I hope to continue speaking publicly about transgender and gender non-conforming people and the issues we face. I also hope to continue empowering women, especially those that are interested in pursuing strength sports, and do my best to promote equality as an intersectional feminist. Professionally, I hope to achieve enough financial independence to allow me to pursue those goals full time.

Straight Guys Reveal They’re Having A lot Of Gay Sex

by Joe Morgan

Straight guys are having a surprising amount of gay sex, according to the latest national survey.

Researchers have interviewed more than 9,000 men and women aged between 18 and 44 between 2011 and 2013. Americans were asked to talk about their sexual experiences, who they are attracted to and how they label their sexual orientation.

And guys who identify as straight are having quite a bit of gay sex.

The CDC learned 1.9% of men said they were gay and 2% were bisexual – up from 1.2% from the last survey.

However, 6.2% of men said they had engaged in either oral or anal sex with another guy.

So this means, at least 2.3% of men engaging in gay sex who say they are straight.

‘You do expect some differences,’ said Casey E. Copen, the lead author of the study. ‘For some people … they may or may not have had the experiences they’re contemplating, [especially] if they’re younger.’

Editor’s Note: Partnering with UTMB’s Wavelength Medical

Wavelength Medical UTMB Galveston Dr. Eric Walser Prostate Cancer LGBTQ

In the United States, 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. About Magazine and the team at UTMB’s Wavelength Medical are teaming up to help raise awareness.

Dear Readers,

Cancer is an ugly word. It strikes terror in people, because what we know about cancer is universally negative. No one wakes up and jumps for joy at the thought that they or someone they love has cancer. And why should they? Cancer appears and grows in various parts of the body – some harder to treat than others – and affects countless numbers of people all across the world. And while About Magazine is no medical journal, we were presented with a rather unique opportunity by the medical health professionals at Wavelength Medical of the University of Texas Medical Branch last week with which we had to jump on board.

At that time, program coordinator, Rebecca White (MBA, BSN, RN) reached out to About Magazine and explained that the physician she works for, Dr. Eric Walser, is specializing in the treatment of prostate cancer – a cancer which is just as likely to affect the straight & cis community as it is the LGBTQ community. Only, Dr. Walser is innovating the ways that prostate cancer is treated – trying to eliminate the need for radiation or total removal of the prostate. After explaining to us the methods he’s implementing, About Magazine and Nurse White sat down to draw up the first four weeks worth of plans in a six-month plan to promote these new methods, as well as to raise awareness about prostate cancer and its treatment.

wvm-with-utmb@3x Editor's Note: Partnering with UTMB's Wavelength Medical
Wavelength Medical at UTMB in Galveston

With that said, the contracts were signed today, and starting next Thursday, About Magazine will be bringing to our readers and viewers multimedia content that takes a deeper look at prostate cancer and how it affects the LGBTQIA community. We’ll be looking at ways to debunk myths about anal sex, discussing how trans women can continue to care for their prostate health through and after their transitions, looking at how hormone replacement therapy may or may not be increasing the risks of prostate cancer, explaining Dr. Walser’s methods of treating prostate cancer, and so much more. Through written content, video interviews, and interactive programming, About Magazine will be here to guide our viewers and readers down the right path to maintaining good prostate health.

We know that prostate cancer is just one form of cancer and that it is one of the most treatable forms. But we also know that by raising awareness, About and our friends at Wavelength Medical could help save the lives of LGBTQIA people, and maybe prevent the nightmares of radiation and prostatectomy. And our earnest hope is that by working with Wavelength, we’ll also be able to explore and raise awareness to countless other medical conditions that affect our community.

We hope you’ll stick with us on this journey and enjoy everything we will be bringing to you over the next six months (and hopefully longer!).

 

Best,

Anthony Ramirez, Editor-in-Chief

Aiming Higher with AIN

AIN Dallas HIV/AIDS Treatment Counseling

AIN — a nonprofit that has been providing access to treatment, care, events, meals, and counseling to Dallas’s community of HIV-positive people for over 30 years — opened its new facility on Sept. 20th. Take a look around and learn more about them here.

The facility where a business is housed does not always matter to the employees working to make a difference; but in the case of AIN, it sure does help the experience. AIN — or Access & Information Network — is a growing not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides support to vulnerable, at-risk, and diagnosed individuals living with HIV in North Texas which has been growing in staff and volunteers for 32 years. Yet within that vast expanse of time, space has been limited as the number of individuals they wish to help has continually grown.

After sixteeen months of CEO Steven Pace working tirelessly to find a new space for AIN to grow in, the company moved into the new offices at 2600 North Stemmons Freeway, Suite 151 in Dallas, Texas. The move may have been a small one in terms of location movement, as the previous space for AIN was located across Stemmons Freeway from where they are now, but the new offices have placed AIN in the center of the Medical District in Dallas where it is much easier to access any doctors or medical offices that will be needed by clients of AIN. The Grand Opening Event of AIN’s new offices took place on September 20th, 2018 and was extremely well-attended by patrons, clients, and medical staff within the area.

42424663_1895859757163254_4513890347536875520_n Aiming Higher with AINThe new office space is also having a huge effect on the staff and volunteers of AIN, as many members expressed how delighted they were with the spaciousness, layout, and organization of the new offices. Miranda Grant, Events and Volunteer Coordinator, was ecstatic when asked what she thought about the spaces:

“It’s such a large and inviting space, and in a wonderful location. Plus, I get my own office now, so that’s enough to make any employee happy!”

42492245_1669858703137216_3024772345031032832_n Aiming Higher with AINMany AIN employees expressed the same. Reginald Peoples, AIN’s Van Transportation Coordinator for clients, expressed that he was “impressed with the larger office” and that he will have “plenty of space to direct his drivers now.

The Grand Opening Event allowed outside patrons into AIN’s new headquarters to meet its staff, and everybody there was in high spirits. One might expect to see the staff of a company behave appropriately and to be friendly, but AIN’s staff, interns, and volunteers seemed absolutely genuine about how welcoming, inviting, and approachable they were. Each staff member took the time to explain their roll within AIN and allowed patrons to ask any questions we had about their positions, answering with full confidence and a bright smile.

42405866_252807382087355_4695808317333700608_n Aiming Higher with AINAs shown at the Grand Opening Event, the offices are larger than ever. Each staff member has plenty of room to conduct their job, and clients are welcomed into a professional and healthy-looking environment that takes their best interests to heart. Clients are offered new amenities with this new office space. There is a beautiful interfaith space for meditation, peace, and prayer, and clients have ample room for meeting with case managers privately. Across the parking lot — honestly only about a 40-yard walk — the new Daire Center will be complete in 4 to 6 weeks and will provide meals from the built-in kitchen, a sleeping area for those who have traveled from outside the immediate counties around Dallas-Fort Worth, and other non-medical support and therapy that all clients will have access to.

With this new office space in the center of the Medical District, AIN aims to make its staff and volunteers happier and more organized and aims to make an even bigger difference with their clients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area by offering amenities and counseling that they did not have the space for before. AIN is dedicated to serving the North Texas area by offering hope and helping create a world without HIV by putting its best foot forward within its new location and offices.

42492245_1669858703137216_3024772345031032832_n Aiming Higher with AIN


For more information about AIN, please visit www.AINDallas.org, or visit the offices during business hours from Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm at 2600 North Stemmons Freeway, Suite 151, Dallas, Texas 75207, and call (214) 943-4444 for inquiries and appointments.

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