He fought on some of the most dangerous battle fields of the world for 20 years, but Chris Beck’s personal struggle is far more compelling. Now known as Kristin, the former Navy SEAL has now come out as a woman, and telling her story in a new biography “Warrior Princess: A Navy SEAL’s Journey to Coming Out Transgender.”
But for most of her life, no one could have known the difference. Beck was married twice and had two sons. He was also a consummate man’s man, playing football, riding motorcycles, and becoming a war hero. He served as an enlisted petty officer in the SEALs, accumulating seven combat deployments, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, and serving with Seal Team Six, the unit that lead the raid to kill Osama bin Laden.
But six months before that famous mission, Beck retired, and finally made the decision to complete his transgender odyssey: he began hormone therapy in 2011.
“Chris really wanted to be a girl and felt that she was a girl and consolidated that identity very early on in childhood,” said Anne Speckhard, co-author of “Warrior Princess,” which was released last weekend. The book says that Chris, “had considered living as the woman he felt himself to be for a very long time, but while he was serving as a SEAL he couldn't do it.”
This is because, while gays and lesbians can now serve openly in the military, transgender men and women still cannot. So why is this the case?
Basically, the armed forces require organization, and prefer neat, simple categories. Since it’s naturally difficult to get millions of warriors ready for battle, relief efforts, or any maneuver, the authorities don’t deal well with these types of differences. Then there are the ethical, personal, and moral perceptions that factor into transgender identification, including the unfortunate, surviving notion that anyone outside of usual sexual or gender roles is mentally unbalanced or depraved. The Atlantic summarized it extremely well when discussing this issue last year: “[M]any military members are afraid of what they don’t understand.”
But in the meantime, Kristin Beck is continuing this new battle via social networking. While working as a military consultant in Florida, she maintains an active twitter account, criticizing current soldiers, who, among other things, stay off the battlefield. And many of her former SEAL buddies have expressed support, including one who said: “You’re a Team Guy, first and foremost, and you always will be. I’ll drink a beer with you anytime, anywhere, for any reason, no matter how you are dressed ... especially if you are buying.”
If fellow military members can support a choice for transgender identification, then at some point, we all can.