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Lions Roar : November 2015
In 1969, five days of protests at Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn marked the beginning of the Gay Liberation Movement. I had been working for three seasons on Star Trek but we had been canceled. I was still pursuing acting, still silent, gritting my teeth. Life continued that way for years—until in 2005 both the California legislature passed the Marriage Equality Bill. All it needed to become law was the signature of our governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had campaigned for office by saying, “I’m from Hollywood, some of my best friends are gays and lesbians.” But he vetoed it. It was an outrageous hypocrisy. That night, young people poured onto Santa Monica Boulevard, venting their rage. My partner Brad and I agreed: “We have to be more public now.” That was when I talked to the press for the first time as a gay American. I blasted Arnold Schwarzenegger, and since then I have been out there, blasting left and right. It is amazing how far we’ve come. We can all bring about change. We can bring about greater equality for all, and that, I feel, is part of the mission of Buddhism—to embrace diversity, to embrace the oneness that we all share. ELLEN KRUG is a lawyer and the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty, and Gender Change. Getting to Ellen For ELLEN KRUG, a dharma teacher’s encouragement helped change everything. IN 2010, when I was fifty-three years old, I surgically transitioned from male to female. It came at a huge cost, but Buddhist practice and wisdom would ultimately give me the strength to do what I had long considered impossible. I grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and fell in love with a high school classmate (I’ll call her Lydia). We built a good life together—two beautiful daughters, a successful career, money in the bank—but after thirty-two years of marriage, things fell apart over my gender identity. I’d always known something wasn’t right. Yes, I had a male body, but I was attracted to feminine clothing and wanted to have the body of a female. I believed the fantasies and gut-tugs about being female would go away, but they only got more intense as I got older. I left Lydia to tackle my “gender demon” head-on. It was one thing to dress as a woman in the privacy of my home; it was something else to proclaim publicly, in a small Iowa city, “I’m actually a woman named Ellen!” GEORGE TAKEI is an actor, author, and activist. This piece is adapted from his exclusive LionsRoar.com article, “Being Gay, Being Buddhist.” PHOTOBYZESMERELDA SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2015 42