Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Thursday, November 18, 2010

First Transgender Judge Victoria Kolakowski's Long Road

Posted By on Thu, Nov 18, 2010 at 12:01 AM

click to enlarge Here comes the judge...
  • Here comes the judge...

Winners of Alameda County Superior Court Judgeships usually don't get calls from national media. But Victoria Kolakowski -- "spelled just like it sounds" -- isn't just any judge.

She's almost certainly the first transgender judge in American history, and even more almost certainly, the first elected transgender judge. Yet, if Bay Area voters had seen things differently, she'd have been the first transgender rent board member or transit commissioner.

Kolakowski ran -- unsuccessfully -- for Berkeley's Rent Board and the AC Transit Board of directors in the 1990s, and also lost a run for a judge's seat two years ago. She doesn't think voters are more accepting now than before. Rather, she's now a better candidate than years ago.

"I think that, in general, voters care about the quality, the experience, and the message. Most people just want someone who can get the job done," said the 49-year-old, who underwent her reassignment operation in 1992 and has been living "as me" since 1989.

"When this is all said and done, I still have to go to court every day and be a judge. If I didn't feel qualified and capable, I wouldn't have stepped forward. And if the people of the county didn't think so, they wouldn't have elected me."

Kolakowski isn't sure if being an openly transgender candidate helped or hurt -- though, as for the latter, she points out that Alameda County stretches all the way to Livermore, and being transgender in Livermore ain't the same thing as being transgender in Berkeley. "Not everyone in our county is a liberal Democrat or Green," she says. "We have Republicans, moderate or conservative Democrats -- we have a Tea Party Movement in parts of the county."

The jurist said she isn't feeling pigeonholed by the description "the transgender judge." Not yet at least.

Being transgender "wasn't a major part of my campaign message. I never ran away from it, but it's not what I put front and center," she says. "I felt I'd be a good, qualified judge. In terms of having the label attached to me, I'm happy to wear it if it lets people know that a transgender person can be capable, experienced, professional, and have positions like this in our community." 

Follow us on Twitter at @TheSnitchSF and @SFWeekly

  • Pin It

Tags: , , ,

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"