Teen Lesbian Couple Attacked In Alleged Hate Crime At Six Flags New England

AGAWAM -- Two women were arrested Wednesday after allegedly attacking and injuring a lesbian couple they observed kissing at Six Flags New England, according to Agawam Police.

Damarielys Mukhtar, 29, of Springfield and Nikia L. Butt, 27, of Holyoke were arraigned in Westfield District Court Thursday on charges of assault and battery and a civil rights violation with injury. Mukhtar faces an additional charge of assault with a dangerous weapon, court documents show. 

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Must-See LGBT TV 8/2-8: ‘Back on Board: Greg Louganis’ premieres on HBO; new seasons of ‘Project Runway,’ ‘America’s Next Top Model’

Grab the remote, set your DVR or queue up your streaming service of choice! GLAAD is bringing you the highlights in LGBT on TV this week. Check back every Sunday for up-to-date coverage in LGBT-inclusive programming on TV.

The new documentary film Back on Board: Greg Louganis premieres Tuesday. The film tells the story of the four-time Olympic gold medal winner and his journey from child prodigy to Olympic diving champion and pioneering gay, HIV-positive athlete to often overlooked sports icon. Louganis, who now spends much of his time mentoring young athletes, remains the only male and the second diver in Olympic history to sweep the diving events in consecutive Olympic Games. Back on Board: Greg Louganis: Tuesday, 10pm on HBO.

Cycle 22 of America's Next Top Model, Guys & Girls, kicks off on the CW this week. Miss J Alexander returns to the judges table with the models competing for a contract with NEXT Model Management, a spread in Nylon magazine, and a $100,000 contract as the face of the Zappo's Couture 2016 line. America's Next Top Model: Guys & Girls: Wednesday, 8pm on the CW.

Project Runway returns for season 14 on Thursday. Out designer Zac Posen will be returning to the judges table and Tim Gunn will continue to mentor the 16 designers in the workroom. The season premiere has the contestants arriving at Madison Square Garden and rushing to gather four pieces of fabric to use in their design. Project Runway: Thursday, 9pm on Lifetime.

Sunday August 2: I Am Cait (8pm, E!); Big Brother (8pm, CBS); The Last Ship (9pm, TNT); Masters of Sex (10pm, Showtime); The Strain (10pm, FX)

Monday: The Fosters (8pm, ABC Family); So You Think You Can Dance (8pm, FOX); Chasing Life (9pm, ABC Family); Major Crimes (9pm, TNT); Murder in the First (10pm, TNT); Teen Wolf (10pm, MTV); Becoming Us (10pm, ABC Family)

Tuesday: Pretty Little Liars (8pm, ABC Family); Sisterhood of Hip Hop (9pm, OWN); Clipped (10pm, TBS); Tyrant (10pm, FX); Scream (10pm, MTV); Hollywood Game Night (10pm, NBC); Back on Board: Greg Louganis (10pm, HBO)

Wednesday: Big Brother (8pm, CBS); America's Next Top Model (8pm, CW); Mr. Robot (10pm, USA); I Am Jazz (10pm, TLC); I Am Jazz (10:30pm, TLC)

Thursday: Big Brother (8pm, CBS); Complications (9pm, USA); Project Runway (9pm, Lifetime); Under the Dome (10pm, CBS); Rookie Blue (10pm, ABC); Graceland (10pm, USA)

Friday: Defiance (8pm, Syfy); Killjoys (9pm, Syfy)

On daytime, check your local listings for information about Ellen, The Talk (CBS), The Gossip Table (VH1), The View (ABC) and The Chew (ABC). Soap operas Days of Our Lives on NBC, The Bold and the Beautiful on CBS, and General Hospital on ABC (check local listings) all feature out characters.

August 2, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner’s Conservative Views Create Tension In ‘I Am Cait’ Teaser

Caitlyn Jenner's conservative views create some tension among a group of her friends in a released clip from an upcoming episode of "I Am Cait," Jenner's docuseries on E!.

While the group discusses homeless and unemployed transgender people, Jenner says, "Don't, a lot of times, they can make more not working with social programs than they actually can with an entry-level job?"

"I'd say the great majority of people who are getting help are getting help because they need help," a friend answers.

"But you don't want people to get totally dependent on it. That's when they get in trouble. ‘Why should I work? I got a few bucks, I got my room paid for,'" Jenner responds, while the rest of the group appears visibly uncomfortable. 

"Now I'm worried," LGBT activist Jenny Boylan later tells the camera.  

"Caitlyn has every right to be just as conservative as she choses, but many transgender men and women need social programs to survive, and that's nothing to be ashamed of," Boylan says. "Living in the bubble is an impediment to understanding other people. Cait's going to be a spokesperson for the community. This is something she's going to have to understand."

In Jenner's revealing "20/20" interview with Diane Sawyer in April, the former Olympian said she is a Republican. When Sawyer asked Jenner if she cheered on Obama after he recognized the transgender community during a State of the Union address, Jenner replied:

"He actually was the first one to say the actual word transgender, I will certainly give him credit for that. But not to get political, I've just never been a big fan -- I'm kind of more on the conservative side," she said.

Also on HuffPost:

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New Posters For ‘The Danish Girl’ Offer A Stunning Look At Eddie Redmayne As Lili Elbe

The first posters for Tom Hooper's "The Danish Girl" are here and they're beautiful. 

 The upcoming drama stars Academy Award-winning actor Eddie Redmayne as transgender icon Lili Elbe, the first person to undergo a successful gender confirmation surgery. Earlier this year, we got our first glimpse of the actor in character as the Danish artist, and the newly released posters are just as striking.

In two of the images, Redmayne is pictured alongside co-star Alicia Vikander, while in a third image, he appears alone, a scarf draped around his neck and red lipstick on his lips. All of the images feature the tagline, "Find the courage to be yourself." 

Redmayne and Vikander were cast after a slew of other actresses (Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow) were rumored to be attached to the project. The role follows Redmayne's Oscar-winning portrayal of Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything" and his part as Balem Abrasax in "Jupiter Ascending."

"The Danish Girl" is based on David Ebershoff's 2000 novel of the same name. Considering all the recent news surrounding the LGBTQ community (with help from people like Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox and Jazz Jennings), the film is being released at a timely moment in our culture. Here's to hoping it helps continue the discussion about the struggles faced by transgender individuals in today's society.

"The Danish Girl" is slated to hit theaters in 2016. 

Also on HuffPost:

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How Cake Became The Favorite Mode For Debate Over LGBT Rights, Other Issues

NEW YORK (AP) — It should be a piece of cake. Customer comes in, asks for a cake with a specific design or for a particular event, baker makes it, everyone's happy.

But sometimes customers and bakers have clashed over what goes on the cake, or whether to make it at all. An Oregon bakery was fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a lesbian couple's wedding. A baker in Colorado earned a customer's ire because she refused to write anti-gay messages on his cake. A Louisiana man posted a video to the Internet lambasting a local Wal-Mart for not making a cake with a Confederate flag on it.

Somehow, this mix of flour, butter, eggs and sugar with frosting on top has become yet another delivery system for American political debate, raising questions about where the customer's free speech ends and the baker's begins.

"Cake has had symbolic meaning in this country," even aside from politics, said Stephen Schmidt, food historian and writer for the Manuscripts Cookbook Survey. "We think of cake as something that can carry that meaning, whereas I don't think the French do."

But some political experts question whether frosting florets on a cake really are the best way to get your way of thinking out there. Would a strongly worded tweet, letter to the editor or yard sign be a better choice than the grand unveiling of the cake to the tune of "Happy Birthday"?

"There's got to be some kind of psychological profile of individuals who deem it important enough to have their politics on their cake," said Doug Muzzio, political science professor at Baruch College. "Have their cake and ideology, too."

Some of the most contentious fights have involved bakers who refused to make a cake for same-sex weddings, frays that have also entangled the likes of florists and photographers.

Bakery owners Aaron and Melissa Klein of Gresham, Oregon, said their religious beliefs would be violated in 2013 if they made a wedding cake for a lesbian couple. The women filed a discrimination complaint and were awarded damages.

There's also been the reverse. Last year, when a customer wanted anti-gay messages on a cake, Marjorie Silva, owner of Azucar Bakery in Denver refused to do it. She told him that she would bake the cake, but that he would have to write his own messages.

"We're human beings, too; we have our beliefs, we should be respected," she said

Free speech issues have come into play in jurisdictions with laws banning discrimination against certain protected classes. Some bakers have argued that being forced to make a cake for something that went against their religious beliefs was a form of compelled speech by the government, barred by the First Amendment.

But courts have ruled that a business open to the public has to be open to everyone.

"The answer so far that courts have given is, no, it's not coercion ... because you do have a choice" about whether to be in business to the public, said Nelson Tebbe, professor at Brooklyn Law School.

Images and words perceived as hateful have raised yet another flavor of cake fight.

A Louisiana man in June wanted a local Wal-Mart to make a cake with an image of the Confederate flag and the phrase "Heritage Not Hate," but was refused. Chuck Netzhammer then ordered a cake with a flag used by the Islamic State group, which he got. Wal-Mart apologized and said the cake was a mistake, made by an employee that didn't recognize the flag and what it represented.

In 2009, a New Jersey supermarket refused to make a cake for a child whose full name was Adolf Hitler Campbell. The boy's mother said the cake was eventually made by a store in Pennsylvania.

For some cake makers, it's not for them to go against the customers' wishes.

Stacey Leon, of New York City's Butterfly Bakeshop, said she and husband keep their personal feelings out of the oven. While they've never been asked to make a cake they thought was truly objectionable, they have madecakes for causes they don't personally believe in.

"If it's a political party that we don't agree with, that doesn't mean we're not going to make their cake," she said. "We just have to separate the way we feel from our business."


Follow Deepti Hajela at www.twitter.com/dhajela

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For ‘Back On Board,’ Greg Louganis Looks Back On His Legacy, LGBT Rights

An amazing sign of progress on LGBT rights — and an example of how the entrenched homophobia in corporate America of years past has changed dramatically — is Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson being heralded by General Mills, which, after the Supreme Court's ruling on marriage equality in June, featured him on a commemorative box of Wheaties, “the breakfast of champions.” Only a few decades ago, Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis, a man whose records in the ‘80s still have not been broken, didn't make the Wheaties box , nor did he get the kind of widespread, lucrative corporate endorsements that his peers received.

A new HBO documentary all about his life, "Back on Board: Greg Louganis" (debuting Tuesday, Aug. 4), points to the intense fear surrounding homosexuality that likely was responsible for the lack of endorsements for a sports superstar who wasn’t even openly gay at the time but was rumored to be so within the sporting world and the media. 

“It's great, the progress we’ve made!” Louganis exclaimed in an interview with me on SiriusXM Progress when he was shown the Wheaties box featuring Wolfson. Indeed, the film reveals how much Louganis himself contributed to that progress, as a prominent sports figure who came out both as gay and as HIV positive during a time when there was much less acceptance. After he revealed his HIV status in the 1990s, Louganis lost the endorsements he had. (An exception was Speedo, which retained him though 2007)


“[Director Cheryl Furjanic] reached out to me and I just agreed to do it,” Louganis said of the documentary, which shows him as he was immersed within the harrowing experience of seeing his Malibu home possibly taken away from him as he sat among his belongings, packed in boxes, trying to negotiate with the bank on the phone. The film flashes back to his amazing career throughout, then comes back to his uncertain present before flashing back again.

“There was so much going on at the time because I was in the midst of potentially losing my home,” he explained. “And what they did with the film, 'Back on Board,' it really goes through the chronology of my sports history and the sports footage really takes you back to that moment in time and, also, to that moment in time of what was happening in the world. People were dying of HIV and AIDS. I was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, six months prior to the Olympic Games. I didn’t think I would see 30 because people were dying. Fortunately, my cousin, who was my doctor, said, 'The healthiest thing for you is to continue training.' And that’s what I did. It was much easier for me to focus on the diving.”

Louganis is a long-term HIV survivor, obviously concerned about his health. He explained how he became an easy target of con artists who preyed upon his vulnerability regarding his being immune-suppressed.

“I learned that my case wasn’t so unique from what was happening in the country,” he said. “It was classic. 2006. The black mold scare. A contractor came in and said, ‘Your house is killing you.’ I was very fearful, so I made a lot of decisions out of fear. So then they took all of the equity out of the house in order to get the work done. And it was going to be to an investment, which was going to pay for everything. And they half-demolished the house [removing supposed mold], because work had to be done immediately. So [I was] in a half-demolished house; they got the money. Took all the equity out of the house and took off with my money.”

But, as "Back on Board" reveals, Louganis is a survivor in more ways than one. He dealt head-on with adversity in both his past and present, and now mentors swimmers on the U.S. Olympic diving team. And he's become a political activist, something he was previously reluctant to call himself. After supporting athletes competing in the 2104 Olympics in Sochi, Russia — plagued by international controversy over that nation’s “gay propaganda” law  — he went directly to the LGBT Out Games in Moscow, facing brutal homophobia along with other athletes.

“We were turned away from our hotels once they learned who the group was,” he said. “We had bomb threats. We had a smoke bomb set off by the military at one of our venues. We were kicked out of venues, and when we were in the midst of the some of the events. There was one time when I was fearful we might be detained….I got a true taste of what it’s like to be LGBTQ in Russia. And I was so grateful to be able to be there.”

And we're grateful that Louganis is still using his stature as a sports hero to fight bigotry. Come on, General Mills. It's not too late for that Wheaties box.

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Girl Wounded In Jerusalem Gay Pride Attack Dies

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli hospital spokeswoman says a teenage girl stabbed by an anti-gay extremist in last week's attack on Jerusalem's gay pride parade has died.

Hadar Elboim of Hadassah hospital said the 16-year-old succumbed to her wounds Sunday and that her organs will be donated.

The girl, identified as Shira Banki, was among six people wounded Thursday by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man who had carried out a similar attack on a gay pride parade in 2005.

He had been released from prison just three weeks earlier and had angrily spoken out against the parade after his release.

Jerusalem, known for its rich religious history and tradition, holds a modest parade annually in contrast to the large parade in nearby liberal Tel Aviv, which drew over 100,000 people this year.

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I’m Transgender And I Need Body Positivity, Too

I love body positivity.

What's not to love? I'm all about any movement for self-acceptance and being a little kinder to ourselves. And after the last few years, in which a medication radically changed the body I had known for so long, it was body positive affirmations and the amazing activists who uttered them that helped me rebuild a healthy relationship with my body and myself.

Body positivity has been like an old friend that I could lean on in difficult moments. It was there when a doctor labeled me "overweight" for the first time. It was there when my disordered eating crept back in and the calorie counting began, and it was there when I learned that you can have stretch marks on the back of your legs and the panic about all these changes set in.

(Bless you, Tumblr, and all the body pos babes who came to my rescue.)

But -- and you knew there was a "but" coming, right? -- I can't say that I have always felt included in this movement, you know? Sometimes I wonder who this movement is really speaking to.

There are moments when it definitely, definitely doesn't speak to me.

As a transgender person (someone who does not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth), some of the language used in this movement can be a little... off-putting.

The most glaring issue that comes to mind is the mantra of "love your body, no matter the shape or size, exactly as it is." Variations on this include: "You don't need to change!" and "Embrace your curves!"

Well, I can't.

As a trans person, I experience body dysphoria. This means that I have pretty significant distress around certain parts of my body because I associate them with a gender that I don't identify with. This is fancy talk for "Holy shit, I cannot make peace with my body today or ever, because this body is telling the world I'm a woman when I'm actually not."

On my worst days? I can't leave my apartment. I ugly cry like there's no tomorrow. And there's a crushing weight on my chest, making it difficult to breathe, let alone function like the adult I'm supposed to be.

But contrary to the affirmations that litter my Tumblr feed, it's not about hating myself, and it's not even about hating this body -- it's a perfectly good body and it's served me well through thick and thin.

It's about hating what my body has come to symbolize. It's the mixed messages and the misgendering that come with having a "feminine" body but a masculine gender identity. It's about how invisible my body makes me feel -- the way it tricks others into seeing me as something that I'm not.

And no amount of self-love and validation can change the fact that, when I step out into the world, my body precedes me and erases a very important aspect of my identity.

The anxiety that I came to associate with different parts of my body, and the erasure that I experienced because of it, ultimately meant that my body and I couldn't make peace; I needed to change my body in order to be healthy, functional and less dysphoric.

Which, yikes, after being told "Never change! You're perfect just the way you are!" by some well-meaning Instagram photos, it makes me feel like I'm doing this whole "body positive" thing wrong -- even though hormone therapy and top surgery are necessary for my psychological well-being.

The reality is that it's dangerous for me not to change my body. Like many trans people, dysphoria can really wear you down, and it can be unhealthy to allow something so distressing to continue without an intervention.

So, what does my body positivity look like?

It crushes the gender binary -- acknowledging that we aren't all men and women, and that some of us, like me, are non-binary. People of all genders (and the bodies that they occupy) deserve to be visible, supported, represented and celebrated.

And no matter our gender identity, we are all coming up against a fatphobic, diet-obsessed culture -- so I'm making room for everyone to navigate this hecka difficult struggle in their own way.

My body positivity does not hinge on the idea that all bodies are perfect as they are, because for some of us, this isn't true to our experience. But all bodies are worthy -- meaning we should treat them with love and care, whatever that care looks like so long as it's good for us.

My body positivity says that we should all reclaim ownership over our bodies. Sometimes that means allowing our bodies to just be as they are, pushing out harmful body ideals and, instead, letting love in.

But sometimes, reclaiming requires change. Sometimes, it means taking back our bodies from dysphoria, and making the choices that we need to for our health -- health that we dictate on our own terms. Sometimes, we must transition towards the bodies that we need in order to be well. That's absolutely OK. Sometimes modifying our bodies can be our greatest act of self-love.

Most of all, my body positivity leaves nobody behind. My body positivity is still evolving. It is self-critical, changing and growing to encompass each and every person. Fat folks, disabled folks, people of color, transgender people and every intersection in-between -- there is a place for you in this movement.

And I'm calling on you, body positive advocates, to not just make space for trans people, but to include us, too.

We need your hashtags, your affirmations, your shameless stretch mark pictures, your inspirational quotes, your fatkinis and your crop tops and all of the validation that comes with it.

So when you say "all bodies," what do you really mean?


This story by Sam Dylan Finch first appeared at ravishly.com, an alternative news+culture women's website.

More from Ravishly:

A Tale Of Ten Tummies: Stretchmarked, Saggy, Wrinkled, Toned, Taut
Jazz Jennings: Transgender Advocate, Reality TV Star
Crazy Trans Woman Syndrome

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The Biggest LGBT Wellness Stories Of The Week

 Trans Communities Have More Cancer

Breaking: transphobia is making cancer worse. A new report from the World Health Organization found that cancer is higher among trans folks because stigma and discrimination stopped people from getting preventative screening.

Straight Providers Favor Straight Patients

A new study of heath care providers found that straight providers pretty much prefer straight patients -- the opposite was true for lesbian and gay providers. So in case you haven’t found a queer provider yet, visit Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s website to get hooked up.

Discrimination to Blame for Bad Trans Health Care

It’s official: discrimination is still horrible. The World Health Organization just published a report saying that discrimination is to blame for the super high HIV rates among trans people and bad health care they receive. They recommend passing and enforcing laws protecting the civil rights of trans people to improve medical care. Sounds brilliant to us.

Cancer Higher for LGBTQ People in Seven Body Areas

A recent study found that cancer was likelier for LGBTQ people in seven areas: prostate, lung, anus, breast, cervix, womb and colon/rectum. The suggested fixes? Expand trans-friendly care, give better health insurance overall, and improve government policies. Agreed.

Four Things to Know About LGBT Health Care

Healio has put together a list of four things you should know about LGBT health care: young lesbians are less likely to receive HPV vaccination; teens disclosing sexual or gender minority status are better off; LGBT people are at higher risk for eating disorders and LGBT elders are twice as likely to use mental health services. We might add a few more points, but great starter. 

Getting Syphilis Makes You Less Worried About Getting Syphilis

A new study found that gay and bi men who had gotten syphilis in the past knew more about the disease than most people, but having had it didn’t change safe-sex behavior long-term. And they became less worried about it the more times they got it. Noooooooo! 

Suicide Attempts Way Higher for LGBTQ Veterans

A new study by our friend John Blosnich found that LGBTQ veterans were at higher risk for HIV, discrimination, and suicide than other veterans. Among queer folks, suicide attempts were four times higher for LGBTQ veterans than LGBTQ people who weren’t veterans.

LGBTQ People Have Less Health Insurance

Researchers found that LGBTQ couples are less likely to have health insurance than straight couples. Worse, LGBTQ folks of color had even less health insurance than white LGBTQ folks. Guess we’ll have to redouble our #Out2Enroll efforts next year.

Tobacco Companies Don’t Target Gay Neighborhoods

A new study of neighborhoods compared how many same-sex couples there were, the number of tobacco stores and cigarette ads there. Their findings? Tobacco stores didn’t cluster in gay neighborhoods. That's great news. But more work is needed to explain why we smoke at rates 50 percent higher than others. 

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Meet Janae Marie Kroc, Recently Out Transgender World Record Bodybuilder

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.

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