Duluth trans woman, her dad gain international following with podcast
"I’m not the first trans person you know, but I'm probably the first out trans person you know," said Aleana “Ana” Kruger of the "The Transgenda" podcast.
DULUTH — Aleana Kruger came out to her father via text.
Despite their closeness, the now-20-year-old transgender woman felt afraid, and thereby protected, sharing her identity this way.
“It was a great start for us,” recalled Cam Kruger. “Neither of us were prepared for that conversation, so it bought us time to think about it and come together respectfully.”
Today, the Krugers talk about her transition — as well as queerness, what it’s like being a cisgender man raising a trans woman and much more — on their podcast, "The Transgenda ."
Episodes span topics such as gay erasure memes, Twitter jokes, trans representation in politics and intersectionality in the queer community.
They didn’t know how well it would resonate, but since their December launch, the Krugers have interviewed Duluth singer/songwriter AfroGeode; Trans Northland co-founder Sean Hayes; and Aydian Dowling , the first trans man featured on Men’s Health .
And, their podcast has hit more 15,000 downloads, with listeners from New Zealand, Japan, Sweden and rural Minnesota.
Ken Ries had listened to five episodes of "The Transgenda" when they realized it was recorded in the Northland — a game changer for the Pine City, Minnesota, resident.
“I didn’t know there was a supportive trans community in Duluth,” Ries said.
While they’d already identified as nonbinary, Ries decided to pursue hormone therapy at age 59. In addition to working with health care providers, Ries sought podcasts to reflect on the experience.
Through "The Transgenda," though, Ries learned about Trans Northland, the Twin Ports’ first-ever Trans Joy Fest, and they are now signed up to volunteer during Duluth Superior Pride.
Along with the discovery of a nearby community, Ries was struck by the podcast’s content featuring authentic, firsthand experience.
Ries has people in their life who are transitioning or have transitioned, and this was a huge resource to learn about allyship, they said. Also, it’s gratifying to hear the Krugers support each other, Ries said.
It’s easy to spot the strong connection and camaraderie between the two.
Listening to Cam Kruger reading good-natured jokes to his daughter, or hearing them play off each other recalling that time — pre-text message — when the laundry machine, carrying her then-secret feminine clothes, broke mid-cycle.
The duo also share the same nose, whole-hearted laugh and forearm tattoos of a D20, dice used in Dungeons and Dragons.
Cam Kruger hopes their work fosters allies and educates caregivers who need to be creating safe spaces for their youth regardless of their gender identity or sexuality. “I’ve taken on the mantle of trans dad. Every queerdo in the world, if they need a dad, I’ll be one,” he added.
The best way to learn about a community is through personal connection and conversations, said his daughter.
Aleana “Ana” Kruger always knew something was different. Around age 8, she started communicating it.
At 12, she started researching queer and trans communities, where she gained the language that suited what she was experiencing. “Imagine you’re born into a body you don’t feel is yours,” she said.
Kruger began expressing more femininely during high school, and when she turned 18, she began studying in a small Minnesota town, where the pressure to speak and live her truth became unbearable.
“It got to the point where I was on the verge of suicide. I either would die someone I wasn’t and no one I would ever know, or come out as the person I really knew I was.”
She shares her experiences openly on what they call their PG-13 podcast. Along with episodes about gender euphoria and how to support queer folks in your life — "The Transgenda" also includes expletives and mentions of drug use, suicidal ideation and mental illness.
“It is all part of who we are as people, which is ultimately what trans people are: people,” she said.
She is two years into her transition, and she has been very vocal and public with her identity.
“I’m not the first trans person you know, but I'm probably the first out trans person you know. I’m open to any question, as long as it’s not ill-intentioned,” she said.
That, along with wanting a project to regularly connect with her dad, begat the start of the podcast.
The Krugers purchased “Everybody Has a Podcast (Except You)” to start, and aimed to tackle the raw and the joy and positivity within the trans experience.
They purchased reasonable and quality microphones, and he uses free editing software. After a few “horrendous” test episodes, they landed on their format.
It takes up to three hours to research their episodes, and they enlist the help of Andreii A.J. Mullozzi, who earned their degree in gender studies from the University of Minnesota. It’s about an hour to record, and a couple more for editing.
The Krugers respond to listener emails and questions ranging from how to come out to their family to the brand of butter Ana Kruger uses on her toast.
And they started selling bumper stickers, T-shirts that read “tiddys,” “pride” and “gender outlaw” to support the podcast and Kruger’s eventual gender reassignment surgery.
A certified emergency medical technician, she hopes to develop a career in trans and queer education and has been invited to discuss health care within the LGBTQ-plus community with the Miller Dwan Foundation, Douglas County and more.
Asked how the father-daughter duo balance what’s becoming a small business and their personal lives, she was quick to add: “This is part of our self-care.”
While "The Transgenda" started as a way for Cam Kruger to learn about and support his daughter’s transition, the discoveries went deeper than expected.
“I’ve had some very specific ingrained homophobic things that live in me,” he said.
“There’s this part of my identity that I’ve not been OK with … and it’s huge to have that support in this,” he said.
“I didn’t have a queer identity until starting to do this podcast … Actually, I am a queer person,” he continued.
His coming out as panromantic, his efforts to learn about her transition and finding his own self-discovery in the process has been very moving for Ana Kruger.
“I can offer unconditional reassurance and love, which I give to everyone — especially to my father," Ana said.