Former marine and weight lifting champion is exploring new identity as transgender woman: 'I felt broken'

My Beauty Obsession showcases the extreme ways in which people strive to be beautiful. From a mother who has used a corset to achieve her 18-inch waist to a woman who underwent numerous surgeries to look like Melania Trump, the stories are endless.

Janae Marie Kroc has a lot of accomplishments under her belt: She's a former Marine, held a presidential security position under President Bill Clinton for two years and is an all-time world-record holder in powerlifting. Kroc may have perfected a 728-pound bench press, an 810-pound deadlift and a 1,014-pound squat, but up until recently, there was a big part of Janae's life that was missing, even with all those achievements. 

As a junior high school student, Kroc, who was born Matthew Raymond Kroczaleski, would get bullied by other students.

"I hated feeling that vulnerability," she told AOL Lifestyle. "Any time I saw someone big and muscular, I was just in awe, and I thought, 'Wow, that's just how I want to be.'" 

Meet Janae Marie Kroc
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Meet Janae Marie Kroc
Working on rocking the bald head with a little help from a Snapchat filter lol. I am currently under going scalp micro pigmentation or SMP as it's typically referred to. It is essentially tattooing the scalp to add what looks like tiny hairs to fill in bald spots, add density, or restore the hairline. The biggest reason I'm doing it is to establish a more feminine looking hairline which means filling in the corners that have receded and creating a more rounded hairline across my forehead. This will also help cover the large scars I have from my previous hair transplant and facial feminization surgery as well as add density to my entire head. I have one more session with Joe at @chronicink in Mississauga. (just outside Toronto) He's doing an amazing job and I'll post before and after pics after we finish next week. 😊👍 #smp #scalpmicropigmentation
Just finished filming a segment for my new YouTube channel (janaemariekroc) about my relationship with Alivia answering all of the questions you all asked on my earlier post. We have been shooting a ton of content about all kinds of topics which will start dropping after the new year. I will keep everyone updated as things continue to progress! 😊👍 #transgender #genderfluid #nonbinary #gendernonconforming #girlslikeus #transisbeautiful #loveislove🌈 📷 : @arlenkerndt
I want to take a second and thank every single person out there that follows and supports me! I recently crossed the 100K follower threshold on Instagram and I want all of you to know how much that means to me. I try hard to read every single message and comment and reply to as many as humanly possible but unfortunately it's not physically possible to respond to all of them. Still I will never take for granted the opportunity that gives me to help spread my message of love, acceptance, and mutual respect for all human beings regardless of our differences. ❤ That being said for those of you that enjoy what I share there are lots of exciting new things coming!!! 😊😊😊......I've been crazy busy lately but in a good way. I'll provide more details soon but some of the projects I have in the works are....I just hired an amazing person to manage my social media so expect more frequent posts, more videos, we're putting a ton of effort into my YouTube channel with lots of videos about how I embrace my challenges, my boys, my girl, my training and life in general, but more importantly discussion about current issues affecting the trans community, female lifters and trans athletes, and videos designed to dispel the harmful myths surrounding these communities, educate those that don't understand us, and hopefully inspire those of you that can relate to being in a world that doesn't understand you. ❤ Some other projects in the works are.....I'm getting a lot work done on my autobiography, my cook book, I'm going to be one of subjects in an upcoming documentary that is related to the lifting world, be appearing in some very mainstream media, and a few other exciting things that I'll expand on as we get closer to completing them.....and sincerely thank you to every single person who supports me!!! ❤❤❤ #transgender #genderfluid #nonbinary #gendernonconforming #transisbeautiful #womenwhopowerlift #womenwithmuscle #girlswholift #beyou #bereal #beauthentic #girlslikeus
Often people from outside the LGBTQIA+ community ask why it is necessary for us to "come out." Some even go so far as to accuse us of "shoving it in their faces." The truth is there are many important reasons that are too numerous for me to go into here but I want to touch on a few of the most important reasons why it's important. The first reason it's important for us to come out is visibility. Visibility is a huge component of removing the stigma of being part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Traditionally we have often been portrayed as mentally ill perverse sexual deviants that are a detriment to society. Being out and visible makes a huge impact and allows society to see we're just like everyone else and goes a long way toward combating those stereotypes. Probably the most important reason for us to be out publicly is to help inspire our youth that do not come from supportive environments and are still afraid and often ashamed of who they are. The more they see positive examples of people just like them the more that will help them to feel good about who they are and this goes a long way toward helping to reduce the incidence of suicide in our community. I will never forget what it's like to feel all alone, ashamed of who I am, and terrified of how people would treat me if they knew. For that reason alone I will always do my best to be both visible and vocal about being part of our wonderful LGBTQIA+ community. I hope this helps everyone to understand why days like today #nationalcomingoutday are necessary and important part of supporting our youth and eliminating the negative stereotypes that still plague our community. Happy national coming out day and congratulations to everyone that has made today a special part of being authentic in their own lives! ❤ #transgender #genderfluid #nonbinary #gendernonconforming #girlslikeus #transisbeautiful #genderqueer #gay #lesbian #bisexual #queer #LGBT
Another issue that almost no one talks about but really needs to be addressed is the fact that there are a lot of men that are attracted to transgender women. The problem is that almost all of these men are too afraid to openly admit this. I (and many other trans women) have inboxes full of DMs from men from fake accounts. Because of the stigma surrounding dating trans women and the fact that the vast majority of these guys identify as straight men they are not willing to be open about their attraction. They are too terrified of being judged by their peers and of losing their status as a "straight" man. This is problematic in so many ways, but the most important aspect is that this often leads to violence and in some cases murder. There have been numerous cases where a straight identifying male intentionally pursues and is intimate with a trans woman but after sex freaks out and violently attacks the girl. This fear often stems from the fear of losing their straight status in our hetero normative society and especially in cultures that are homophobic, transphobic, and misogynistic. There is also the fact that numerous men could be in happy, fulfilling, loving relationships with trans women but their fear is standing in their way. They are too afraid of what their friends, families, and peers will think to be open about this. So how do we solve this huge problem? We need straight identifying men that are attracted to transgender women to have the courage to be open about this. Once society is able to see how common this actually is it will go a long way toward destigmatizing the desire of transwomen and ending much of the violence transwomen face. So to all of the men out there that are attracted to transgender you have the courage to be honest and help end all of this senseless violence??? #transgender #transisbeautiful #transwoman #transwomen #menwholovetransgirls #girlslikeus
10 ways to be more secure in who we are. This could also be referred to as building/repairing self esteem or self worth. 1. Surround yourself with people that support and uplift you-the importance of having people that believe in you and encourage you cannot be overemphasized. 2. Remind yourself daily of your admirable traits and the things you like about yourself-this is something almost none of us do enough of. 3. Recognize everyone has flaws-we often think of the people we look up to as being perfect and see ourselves as all messed up. Everyone has things they need to work on. 4. Realize what's socially acceptable rarely has anything to do with right or wrong-we often put far too much value in behaving in a way that society finds acceptable. 5. Realize it's okay to be different and that doesn't mean something is wrong with you-everyone is different and unique in their own way and this is a good thing. 6. Avoid/remove people that bring you down or make you feel bad about yourself-sometimes these can even be the people closest to us. 7. Realize no matter how perfect and loving you are there will still be some people that dislike you-haters gonna hate. 8. Realize most people are hiding the parts of themselves they feel others will disapprove of-many of us are hiding similar fears. 9. Realize other people's opinions of you do not matter-we can all find people that will say great or horrible things about us so our self worth should never be determined by someone else. 10. The only opinion that matters concerning your self worth and ability is your own-every single one of us must love who we are in order to achieve everything we're capable of. These are some of the things that have helped me build my own self worth and feel confident in who I am even when I've faced so much rejection and scrutiny. Not that long ago I never would have believed I would able to be proud of and secure in who I am. Working on all of these things (and more) has opened so many new doors for me and allowed me to see a future that is brighter than ever and I know it can do the same for so many of you that struggle with self doubt and poor self esteem. ❤
Normal is an illusion. Normal is the part of ourselves that we're comfortable sharing with the rest of the world. We all hide away the parts of ourselves that we're afraid others might criticize or reject. We do this out of fear and fear will always hold us back. Fear will prevent us from being all of what we can be, all of what we're meant to be. The worst part is we're afraid of what MIGHT happen and in most cases we're wrong. Often what we fear is far worse than the actual outcome. I never thought I'd ever be able to be myself openly and honestly. I thought I'd lose everyone and everything. While it certainly wasn't the easiest thing I've ever done and there were definitely challenges the actual outcome has been far better than I ever dreamed possible. To be able to be totally honest and open about who I am has lifted the biggest burden I've ever carried. The pressure of hiding so much of myself was crushing me even more than I realized. Now I get to experience a freedom few will ever know and the trials on my path here were all worth it. So I encourage you to be open, honest and free. Stop hiding the best parts of who you are and what makes you special. Stop letting fear control you and start living the life you were meant to live! 💪🏼👊🙂 #beyourself #liveyourbestlife #conquerfear #transgender #genderfluid #nonbinary #gendernonconforming #genderqueer
Getting ready to speak at Ferris State University in Big Rapids Michigan this afternoon. I'm really looking forward to returning to my Alma mater and getting to interact with a whole bunch of college students, many of which are on the same career path I chose. It will also be great to reconnect with some of my old professors and visit my old stomping grounds. 🙂 #educationiskeytounderstanding #activisim #transgender #genderfluid #nonbinary #gendernonconforming
Big thanks to @jeremyhamiltonswife for letting me and @walkeralivia train at his amazing facility @fortiswest in Mississauga yesterday! If you're in the greater Toronto area and looking for an a real gym with tons of equipment you won't find anywhere else that supports serious strength athletes check them out! 💪🏼💪🏼💪🏼 #fortiswest #powerlifting #strongman #strongwomen #strengthtraining
10 Key Points Concerning Transition 1. There are no rules concerning transition-change as much or as little about yourself as you feel comfortable with 2.  It doesn't have to be an either or choice-a lot of people find their happiness being somewhere in between genders 3.  You don't have to get top or bottom surgery in order to transition or be valid as a trans person 4.  Move as fast or as slow as you're comfortable with-for some completely transitioning as fast as possible is best for others slow and steady wins the race. I've been in the process of transitioning for over a decade. 5.  It's okay to move back and forth along the gender spectrum if it feels right to you-being gender fluid, non-binary, or gender non-conforming is just as valid an identity as any other. 6.  It can be very helpful to look for "safe spaces" early in your transition. Places like support groups and LGBT friendly clubs and other establishments can provide support and new friends to help you along your journey and make the first steps easier. 7.  Come out to as many or as few people as you like-You can tell everyone or no one. While visibility is important to move the community and society forward you have to do what's best for you and sometimes outing yourself can be very dangerous. 8.  You don't have to conform to society's gender stereotypes in order to have a valid trans identity-Stereotypes are often harmful to almost everyone including cis-people. Gender roles are arbitrary and capricious. Never feel that you have to act or look a certain way to be valid. 9.  Realize that when others reject you or treat you horribly it is a reflection of who they are NOT who you are. 10.  Most importantly just be YOU-It sounds simple but often the most difficult task is being unapologetically our authentic selves when we are surrounded by a society that forces us to be only what the majority finds acceptable. FYI These 2 pics of me were taken a few weeks ago a few hours apart. #transgender #genderfluid #nonbinary #gendernonconforming #girlslikeus #transisbeautiful #girlswhopowerlift #girlswholift #girlswithmuscle
I'm thinking about changing things up with some longer hair since the cold weather is getting here. I love the style and fullness in this wig but it's just way too hot in the summertime. What do you guys think? 🤔 #baldgirlproblems #wiglife #transgender #genderfluid #nonbinary #gendernonconforming #transisbeautiful #girlswhopowerlift #girlswholift #girlswithmuscle #grrrl
I just finished a podcast interview with the amazing girls over at @empoweredbyiron and we talked about a lot of really important topics but we specifically discussed how women feel so much pressure to be "less" just to be accepted. As women we're frequently told to not be too strong or too muscular and even pressured to not be too smart or too confident. No woman (or anyone for that matter) should ever feel pressured to be less than they are. We should all strive to be the very best versions of who we are and if someone else can't handle that that's their issue not yours. #strongwomen #girlswhopowerlift #girlswholift #girlswithmuscle #feminist #feminism #intersectionalfeminism #transgender #genderfluid #nonbinary #gendernonconforming #transisbeautiful #girlslikeus
My biggest struggle for a long time has been reconciling my desire for strength and muscle mass with my femininity. While I have made great strides with this in the past few years I still struggle with it at times, especially when I feel that deep desire to really want to get bigger and stronger but I'm too self conscious of how others perceive me. The thing I have to remind myself is that muscularity and femininity are independent of each other. One does not dictate the other no matter how much society, the bros at the gym, or our friends and family try to tells us that being big and strong is only for the boys. In fact the entire idea is nonsense and completely arbitrary. It changes over time and between cultures and every single person has a different opinion of how much muscle is "okay" or "desirable" for a woman to have. The important thing to remember is the only person that you have to be "okay" and "desirable" for is yourself and the only opinion that truly matters is your own. So if being big and strong makes you happy go out and kill it sister! And If people want to stare, point, and whisper when you walk by let them, just make damn sure you give them something worth talking about! 😉💪 #womenwhostrengthtrain #girlswhopowerlift #girlswholift #girlswithmuscle #liftlikeagirl #girlswhobodybuild #transgender #genderfluid #nonbinary #gendernonconforming

Kroc continued to explain that she always felt like she was supposed to be female, but had to keep those feelings to herself. 

"It's these two conflicting desires around the time I was a small child," she explained. 

Workouts were the "only way" she could feel good about herself, so once she left the Marines in 1995, Kroc started competing seriously...and winning. 

"Everybody is kind of putting me up on this pedestal and then it became harder and harder to come out because I didn't want to disappoint everybody," she said. 

Kroc doesn't see her identity as a disappointment now, but trying to "unpackage that" as an adult was met with a mix of emotions. 

"I felt alone. I felt broken. I thought I was unlovable until the first time I ever had a decent wig and was learning enough about makeup to do a decent job," Kroc explained. "When I looked in the mirror I felt like for the first time in my life I saw who I really was."

She's since gotten her testicles removed, and soon, she is planning to have full bottom surgery and restart hormones.

"The end goal is to feel comfortable in my own skin, which is something I've never really known," Kroc continued. "I'm getting closer all the time."

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