“How am I ever going to find peace being comfortable in my own skin?”
Matt “Kroc” Kroczaleski was caught between two worlds. He always knew he wanted to be a woman and he wanted to be strong. But he didn’t know how he could reconcile those two things being biologically born a man. Over the years Matt found success as a Marine and then as a champion bodybuilder and powerlifter where he won competitions and graced the cover of bodybuilding magazines. He became a legend in that world, idolized for his ability to develop huge muscles and to lift some really heavy weight. He had his fair share of struggles overcoming a difficult childhood, then surviving testicular cancer, depression and a divorce. Now a single father of three sons, he made sure they would grow up with an attentive and involved father. But something was missing for Matt. He could no longer fight against his true authentic self.
“I felt like the person I was was completely constructed. There was a whole bunch that was missing. I didn’t know if there was anything about me that was authentic.”
Michael Del Monte’s documentary Transformer, follows 43-year old Matt as he transitions to become Janae Marie. It’s an intimate portrait of a transgender individual grappling with how to function in society, relationships and career. Janae struggles the stability of being a man and instability of being a transgendered woman. And because Janae spent so many years as a visibly muscular and masculine man, she must deal with how to present her femininity but still train as a body builder. Having the majority of her hair, Janae must wear wigs and depend on make-up and clothes to present as feminine as possible even when a deep voice, wide jaw and wide muscular build fight against that.
What stands out about Janae’s story is the dichotomy between femininity and muscularity. She is a woman who founds success in the bodybuilding world as a man and its a world that she can’t seem to leave behind. In the documentary, we see Janae switch back to male many times until she finally decides to stay as Janae forever and moves forward with facial surgery that will help her connect with that feminine self that seems just out of her grasp.
“If all else fails your Matt Kroc.”
The film follows Janae through her transition, how she currently stands in the bodybuilding world and her relationships with her father (who refuses to accept), her mother (who is starting to accept) and her sons (who are completely supportive).
Transformer is an important LGBTQ documentary and its most significant message is for transgender individuals life is a constant struggle. However, as an audience we don’t really learn too much about the transgender community or the bodybuilding world and how it rejects transgender athletes. Its focus is squarely on Janae’s story. I would love to see another documentary that shines a spotlight on the gender bias in the bodybuilding world and how female and transgender athletes are treated.
Transformer is in select theaters today and is available to purchase on iTunes, Amazon prime, YouTube, Vimeo and other digital platforms. You can find more information on the official website.