Beck in November 2012
|Birth name||Christopher T. Beck|
|Born||June 21, 1966 (age 47)|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1990–2011|
|Rank||Senior chief petty officer|
|Awards|| Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device
Defense Meritorious Service Medal (2)
Kristin Beck (born Christopher T. Beck; June 21, 1966) is a former United States Navy SEAL who gained public attention in 2013 when she came out as a trans woman. She published her memoir in June 2013, Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL's Journey to Coming out Transgender detailing her experiences.
Beck served in the U.S. Navy for twenty years and is the first openly transgender former U.S. Navy SEAL. The Atlantic Wire, Salon, and Huffington Post have speculated that Beck's story may lead the Department of Defense to revisit its policies against transgender people openly serving in the U.S. military.
Early life and education
Born in June 1966, Beck grew up on a farm. As early as the age of five, Beck was drawn to feminine clothes and toys, but was encouraged to adopt masculine roles by her conservative parents. Before transitioning, Beck married twice, and has two sons from the first marriage. She recounts in her memoir how her gender dysphoria contributed to her inability to emotionally mature while being in a male body, and added conflict to her sexual identity, although Beck never really felt gay. Additionally, Beck's duties as a U.S. Navy SEAL kept her on missions away from home, which distanced her from family members.
Beck served for 20 years in the U.S. Navy SEALs before her transition, and took part in 13 deployments, including seven combat deployments. Beck was a member of the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (also known as DEVGRU), a special counter-terrorism unit popularly called SEAL Team Six, and received multiple military awards and decorations, including a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Beck told Anderson Cooper she wanted to be a SEAL because they were the "toughest of the tough."
Beck retired from the Navy in 2011 and began transitioning "to make his body match his identity" by dressing as a woman. In 2013, she began hormone therapy, preparing herself for sex reassignment surgery. During an interview with Anderson Cooper in early June 2013, she stated that she never came out during her military career, and that "No one ever met the real me." After coming out publicly in 2013 by posting a photo of herself as a woman on LinkedIn, Beck received a number of messages of support from her former military colleagues.
Beck co-wrote Warrior Princess with Anne Speckhard, a psychologist at the Georgetown University School of Medicine. Speckhard was doing a study on resilience of the U.S. Navy SEALs, that is, the coping mechanisms employed by SEALs to deal with their intense job demands. Speckhard first met Beck at a counter-terrorism conference. After Beck agreed to discuss coping mechanisms, a follow-up meeting took place in a gay bar, with Beck now dressed in female attire, to Speckhard's surprise. A five-hour meeting led to Speckhard agreeing to help Beck write her life story.
In the book, Speckhard notes that Beck had a desire to die honorably "so that he wouldn't have to wrestle anymore with the emotional pain that stemmed from the lack of congruency between his gender identity and body." In her introduction to the book, Beck writes:
I do not believe a soul has a gender, but my new path is making my soul complete and happy...I hope my journey sheds some light on the human experience and most importantly helps heal the "socio-religious dogma" of a purely binary gender.
OutServe Magazine praised the book, calling it "one of the smartest and most important books of the year." The Huffington Post noted that while the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was repealed in 2011, the ban on openly transgender people serving in the U.S. armed forces still remains. Days before the release of Warrior Princess, Metro Weekly's Poliglot column reported that the Pentagon had celebrated LGBT Pride Month in a memo while avoiding mention of transgender military personnel; the Pentagon memo read in part: "We recognize gay, lesbian and bisexual service members and LGBT civilians for their dedicated service to our country." The Atlantic Wire posited that the book could "lay the groundwork for even greater inclusion in the armed forces," and Salon stated that Beck's military credentials may "lead the Pentagon to revisit its policy against trans service members." While restrictions on sexual orientation have been lifted, restrictions on gender identity remain in place due to Department of Defense regulations; thus transgender people are still barred from joining any branch of the U.S. military.
Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story, a documentary, is in post-production and scheduled for a 2014 release.
Awards and decorations
- Beck, Kristin; Speckhard, Anne (2013). Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL's Journey to Coming out Transgender. Advances Press. ISBN 9781935866428.
- Grove, Lloyd (6 Jun 2013). "Kristin Beck, the SEALs' Warrior Princess Who Came Out as Transgender". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
- Doug Stanglin (5 June 2013). "A Navy SEAL's biggest secret: Life as a transgender". USA Today. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
- Thompson, Jakki (16 July 2013). "Transgender Navy SEAL speaks out in moving memoir". Kansas State, The Collegian. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- KRISTIN BECK AND ANNE SPECKHARD (8 June 2013). "I’m the transgender Navy SEAL: I'm Kristin Beck now. As Chris, I risked my life on countless SEAL missions -- all while trying to hide who I am". Excerpted from "Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL's Journey to Coming Out Transgender". Salon.com. Retrieved 14 September 2013.
- Doug Standlin (4 June 2013). "A Navy SEAL's biggest secret: Life as a transgender". USA Today. Retrieved June 5, 2013.
- Anderson Cooper (June 6, 2013). "Anderson Cooper's exclusive interview with transgender former Navy SEAL Kristen Beck pt. I". CNN. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
- Ferran, Lee (3 June 2013). "Transgender Navy SEAL 'Warrior Princess' Comes Out". ABC News. Retrieved 8 June 2013.
- Vittorio Hernandez (June 6, 2013). "Former Navy SEAL Member Shares Sex Change Journey in Warrior Princess Memoir". International Business Times. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
- Cavan Sieczkowski (June 4, 2013). "Kristin Beck, Transgender Navy SEAL, Comes Out In New Book". The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- Katie Miller (June 4, 2013). "OutServe Magazine Praises Memoir of Transgender Navy SEAL". OutServe Magazine. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- Justin Snow (June 3, 2013). "Pentagon marks LGBT Pride Month while omitting trans servicemembers". Metro Weekly. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
- J.K. Trotter (Jun 3, 2013). "The Latest Navy SEAL Book Could Impact the Military's Transgender Rules". The Atlantic Wire. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
- Katie Mcdonough (June 3, 2013). "SEAL Team 6 veteran comes out as transgender". Salon. Retrieved June 13, 2013.
- "Transgender Vets Want Military Access". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 25 September 2011. Retrieved June 1, 2011.