Transgender activist Ellen Krug shares transition story on campus for Day of Remembrance


Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily

Ellen Krug speaks to a packed audience Wednesday, Nov. 20, in the Sun Room audience about living as a transgender woman. Krug, a Coe College graduate, was a defense lawyer when she transitioned from being male to female. 

Greg Zwiers

For Transgender Day of Remembrance, students organized to bring Ellen Krug, a transgender activist, to Ames on Wednesday. Krug read from her book “Getting to Ellen” and led conversations about being transgender and being true to yourself.

Krug is a columnist for Lavender magazine, an LGBT-centered magazine and website based out of Minneapolis. Krug also runs a nonprofit organization.

Krug finished the day at a lecture, titled “Living as Transgender,” from 8 to 9 p.m. in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union. The Sun Room was full, and event staff had to set out extra chairs as more people arrived.

Wednesday was National Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to commemorate the deaths of transgender people due to violence.

“They should and must be remembered and honored,” Krug said.

Krug said National Transgender Day of Remembrance was a convenient day for her to come down.

Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays, Gamma Rho Lambda, The LGBT Ally Alliance, the LGBT Faculty and Staff Association, LGBT Student Services, Margaret Sloss Women’s Center and the Iowa State Committee on Lectures organized the events.

Krug focused most of the lecture on accepting and loving oneself and others.

“I believe that life is to be lived, not simply endured,” Krug said.

Krug said that when she looks at her body now, she sees a woman, the real her.

The Ames chapter of PFLAG initially contacted Krug to come and speak for an hour at one of its meetings, Krug said. Krug suggested PFLAG collaborate with other another group to make the most of her trip from Minneapolis.

“I’m really a huge believer in groups collaborating,” Krug said. Collaboration helps build relationships between people and helps organizations like PFLAG connect with campus groups.

Krug said the attempted suicide rates among transgender people is 41 percent. Many transgender people are bullied. Krug was a defense attorney before transitioning and had to close her office after transitioning because she lost too many clients.

“Repel all negativity,” Krug said. 

All people are worthy of breathing the same air and are worthy of life regardless, she said.

Krug shared the story of an attorney she had worked with, but didn’t know well, who called her a few months after her transition to see how she was doing.

“It’s a phone call I will remember for the rest of my life,” Krug said.

Krug urged those in attendance to reach out to others because it is worth it and can be a large source of strength. She said reaching out is the essence of being human.

Krug read excerpts from her book and answered questions at a signing at the Octagon Center for the Arts in downtown Ames from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and led dialogue on transgender issues for both a group of strictly transgender students and for the larger LGBT community.

“I’m delighted that Ellen was with us the entire day,” said Brad Freihoefer, LGBT Student Services coordinator. He said having Krug come was helpful to start conversations that can lead people to the resources that can help them.

“Having Ellen on campus is a major step toward getting to that goal,” Freihoefer said. 

Having Krug at Iowa State allowed for “really critical issues” to be talked about. The conversations allow people to be able to support one another better, Freihoefer said.

“I have been treated like a rockstar today,” Krug said.