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Ellen Krug talks about the election, being transgender and vulnerability

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Photo by Lórien MacEnulty | Transgender advocate Ellen Krug spoke about vulnerability to students last week.

BY LÓRIEN MACENULTY

Apprehension of the previous night’s election results weighed heavily on the atmosphere of Meredith 103 early last Wednesday. Students enrolled in the social justice leadership class awaited the arrival of Ellen Krug, an attorney, writer and transgender activist from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The bright red and blue donuts that accompanied the occasion were left virtually untouched.

“Probably everyone here is some combination of exhausted, despondent, shocked, grieving,” said Darcie Vandegrift, the class’s supervisor and associate professor of sociology. “You know, the fact is that we are coming together at this time when there are a lot of emotions at the top, and we are asking questions about where we go from here. I think it’s fantastic that we have a speaker who has devoted her life to living her authentic self and also to embodying activism around social justice issues.”

Krug has degrees from Coe College and Boston College Law School. She transitioned from male to female in 2009 in the midst of a civil trial case.

Krug’s experiences inspired the conception of a book, entitled “Getting to Ellen: A Memoir About Love, Honesty, and Gender Change.”

In 2011, she founded a non-profit organization called Call to Justice, LLC, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which seeks to connect financially impoverished individuals with legal resources.

Despite these successes, Krug insists that she is nothing special.

“All that I am is a survivor of the human condition,” Krug said. “It just happens to be that my survivorship is more public than it is for most people.”

While election of Donald Trump derailed her speech plans, Krug focused on authenticity as a powerful advocacy device to have a lasting impact on the audience.

“What was one of the first things I said to you?” Krug said. “I said, ‘I look like a chick and sound like a dude.’ That’s vulnerability on my part. I’m a vulnerable person, and what that does is that draws me closer to you.”

Krug sprinkled her speech with mentioned of acts of authentic vulnerability to demonstrate this exact phenomenon to the students of the social justice class.

She spoke of the loss she encountered while transitioning genders, the loss of her now ex-wife and self-described soul-mate.

“I knew that if I moved from here (manhood), to there (womanhood), I knew that I would lose her,” Krug said. “And for the longest time I tried my absolute best. We are talking multiple therapists. We are talking drugs. We are talking bargaining. We are talking alcohol. We are talking beautiful toys. I tried everything to stay a boy. But because authenticity is among the most powerful things in the world, I couldn’t stay a boy. Gender is not a choice. Sexuality is not a choice.”

Krug partially attributed her success as an attorney and a transgender advocate to the power of authenticity.

“You cannot change the way people think unless you get to know them,” Krug said. “If you don’t form the basis to become familiar with someone, understand what’s ticking with them, you’re not going to be able to change their minds.”

Eren Latham, a sophomore anthropology and sociology major, responded positively to Krug’s message and the context in which it was delivered.

“It was really helpful,” Latham said. “I have been reeling since last night. I have been helping my girlfriend who has been reeling. To have this talk from someone who is authentic and who is an advocate despite all odds is a really powerful thing. And it’s given me ideas on how to go forward.”

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