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The ‘Stuff Inside’ That Wouldn’t Go Away

Ellen Krug ’82 describes the torment and the triumph of her gender transition.


When Ellen Krug ’82 enrolled at Boston College Law School, her name was Edward. And Edward lived with a painful secret. Thirty-seven years later, on September 28, Edward returned to BC Law as Ellen, a guest of the Office of External Relations, Diversity, and Inclusion, to talk to students about where that secret led her.

To all outward appearances, Edward followed a typical path. He married his high school sweetheart in BC Law’s Trinity Chapel and went on to live out what he called the Grand Plan: a prosperous trial practice in his native Iowa, a beautiful home, a loving marriage, two children.

But informing nearly every major decision in his professional or personal life were unsettling feelings about his gender identity that he believed he could outsmart or outrun by moving to another city, working harder, or building a larger family. “I always thought,” Krug told the gathering, “that the stuff inside me would go away.”

No only did it not go away, each time it returned, it did so with greater vengeance. Years of therapy ensued, but it wasn’t until two planes plowed into the World Trade Center on 9/11/01, that Krug realized that a lifetime of self-doubt and insecurity had to end. One of his greatest fears was dying alone, and he saw in the terrorist attack a new perspective on life and death. “Unless I was honest with myself about my gender identity, I’d die without ever being my true self,” Krug wrote later in Lion’s Roar, a Buddhist publication.

It took several more years, but Krug did leave his marriage, closed his Cedar Rapids law practice —in part because he lost clients when he announced that he was transgender—surgically transitioned from male to female, and moved to Minneapolis.

There, as Ellen, she started a nonprofit that helps low income people access legal advice. She also offers diversity and inclusion training to businesses, universities, and nonprofits nationwide through her company, Human Inspiration Works.

The author of the 2013 Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty, and Gender Change believes there is no such thing as a “human owner’s manual.” So she offers her motivational talks to help others who are also making difficult life transitions. If she can do it, she contended, perhaps others can too. “I am no one special,” Krug said. “I am a survivor.”