California‘s Alameda County has elected the nation’s first transgender Superior Court trial judge. Victoria Kolakowski, 49, defeated her opponent, Deputy District Attorney John Creighton, in a narrow win in what had been a hotly contested race.
In an interview with student journalist Alexa Sasanow of The Tuft’s Daily newspaper, Kolakowski said:
“The trans thing isn’t the first thing I talk about.
“I talk about my experience, things I’ve done as a lawyer, things I want to do as a judge, and when there’s time, I say something about being transgender.
“It’s not what I lead with, and a lot of people don’t know. I’m not hiding it, but it’s one of the things that is difficult when you’re running a race; how do you address this issue? You don’t want to be hiding something about who you are, if you’re out, but you also don’t want to say, ‘Vote for me. I’m wearing a rainbow flag.”
Kolakowski, an administrative judge for the California Public Utilities Commission, underwent gender reassignment surgery more than two decades ago.
“Coming out, before I transitioned, it was so hard to explain to someone, to go ‘I’m a woman,’ and they go ‘No, you’re not,’ and I say ‘I feel like this,’ and they say ‘You have a problem,'” Kolakowski said, in talking about her experiences as a transgender female.
“A lot of people come from this perspective that we’re out of touch with reality, so we become unreliable or undependable. Usually, people who have problems with gays and lesbians see it as more of a moral issue -– that it’s immoral, not that they think they’re crazy. With trans people, there is this perception that, not what we’re doing is immoral, but the fundamental perspective is that we’re out of touch with reality.”
In the interview which was published prior to Tuesday’s election, Sasanow writes:
Kolakowski was part of a group of transgender candidates across the nation that was recently profiled in the New York Times, and she cited some of the online comments on the article as indicative of a culture of homophobia and transphobia that still exists in the United States in many forms.
Kolakowski held off a strong surge by Creighton, who closed a 14-point gap from the June primary. She held 50.2 percent of the vote against Creighton’s 48.7 percent.
Alameda County occupies most of the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, including Oakland. It has a population of 1.4 million.