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Surge Desk

Victoria Kolakowski: 5 Facts About America's First Transgender Superior Court Judge

Jan 5, 2011 – 6:25 PM
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David Knowles

David Knowles Writer

In another milestone for gay, lesbian and transgender rights, Victoria Kolakowski was sworn in as the nation's first transgender trial judge Tuesday.

Having served as a lawyer 21 years, and an administrative law judge for the past four, Kolakowski brings an impressive resume to the bench, but the topic of her gender status has never been something she has shied away from discussing.

"To me, the real news of my being here tonight is not that a transgender person was elected as a judge, but it was never an issue in my campaign," Kolakowski said in remarks delivered after being sworn in, adding, "Throughout my career, once my colleagues found out that I am transgender, there was always a curiosity for a day or two and then I just became Vicky."

Surge Desk has more on Kolakowski's history-making rise.

1. She had to fight to become a lawyer
After graduating from Louisiana State University law school, the Louisiana State Bar Association cited Kolakowski's gender transformation as reason for prohibiting her from taking the bar exam, Oakland North reported. The Louisiana Supreme Court sided with Kolakowski, however. "When I started as an attorney over two decades ago, I encountered a lot of discomfort, subtle and sometimes invidious discrimination," Kolakowski said in a speech at her confirmation ceremony. "I never gave up. I never forget the words Primo Levi said: 'If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, then what am I? And if not now, when?' "

2. She is married to a woman
Kolakowski and spouse Cynthia Laird were wed by former Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums in 2008, shortly before Proposition 8 put a halt to same-sex marriages in California. Their union, as with some 18,000 other same-sex couples wed before Proposition 8 went into effect, is still legally recognized in the state.

3. She was elected to her position on the Alameda County, Calif., Superior Court
In November, Kolakowski beat out Deputy District Attorney John Creighton by a final vote tally of 162,089 to 152,554 to win the spot on the District Court.

4. She transitioned from male to female in the 1980s
While attending her final year at Louisiana State University, Kolakowski underwent a sex change operation.

5. She has earned a 'Woman of the Year' award
The East Bay Lesbian/Gay Democratic Club gave Kolakowski the honor in 1994, and she was named Outstanding Woman of Berkeley by the Berkeley Commission on the Status of Women in 1995.

6. She is an ordained minister
Kolakowski earned a master's of divinity from Berkeley's Pacific School of Religion and was the chaplain at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. According to her website, she is "an ordained minister in the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches."

Here's Kolakowski in an interview with Comcast shortly before she was elected:

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Filed under: Nation, Politics, Surge Desk, Religion