“Transformer” is a documentary that follows the life and transition of Janae Kroc, a transwoman from Michigan. Hers is an incredibly positive and self-affirming story of a woman who, while presenting as a man, was a professional powerlifter who set world records, a Marine, a Dad and a Pharmacist who came from a poor upbringing. It was that poor upbringing that seemed to give her the drive to succeed. Janae alludes to this in the movie. I enjoyed her candor and humility the most. I see that as one of the strengths that her impoverished upbringing probably gave her. She realized early on that she wanted a very different life. She worked hard at becoming a powerlifter and was easily the toughest kid on the block. Her dad had given her a book on how to work out and become strong that Arnold Schwarzenegger authored. Later the Marines were a way for her to try to get rid of her feminine traits which at the time she despised about herself. Back then “Kroc”, the nickname she was and is known by in the powerlifting community, thought if she just became butch enough and did “male” professions that the trans/femme part of her would eventually subside. So many of us go through this phase. It’s ironically so often a rite of passage towards our womanhood.
I thought it was interesting how for quite a while, Janae thinks of herself as bigender and gender flexible. What I saw in this movie was a person living one life, but split into two identities at first. There was Matt or “Kroc” who presented as a man and used he/him/his pronouns along with son and Dad titles and then there was Janae or “Kroc” who presented as a woman and used she/her/hers pronouns and accepted Mom, daughter, but also Dad, son or even he/him/his pronouns. The bigender or gender flexible way of being was short lived for Janae. It seemed to be about giving her support circle time to accept her as a woman. As the documentary progressed, we’re shown her going through Vocal Feminization and Female Feminization surgeries. At that point she seemed to transition to being a binary transwoman who prefers only she/her/hers pronouns. Her three boys, who accepted her totally, called her Mom and showed only love for her throughout the film.
The documentary is a success story, for sure, and yet there’s also some unfortunate things that happen to Janae. I don’t want to give too much of it away. I will say that her profound self-confidence, strong support circle, mostly loving family and welcoming professional powerlifting community were amazing to witness! It brought me new strength in my own transition, showed me ways to be more loving towards cisgender folx, gave me hope and showed me I’m not alone in my struggles. We can plan for the best, but truly, the world can throw us some nasty surprises. Janae showed me when that happens to her, she would own the pain, but then get back up, smile and be friendly, and try again. She always tried again. It seemed that no transphobia ever stopped her. She’s strong in mind and body and that was the best take away for me. “Transformer” can be found on Netflix. Janae also has some commentary videos about it on YouTube.
“So happy to finally be loving the image I see in the mirror.” -Janae Kroc
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- Media Review: Transformer - June 21, 2019