A decorated former Navy SEAL has come out as transgender with the publication of a new autobiography over the weekend. Kristin Beck was born Chris, but she was never truly at ease with a male identity, even as a little boy.
“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: A U.S. Navy SEAL’s Journey to Coming out Transgender.
For 20 years, Beck served as an enlisted petty officer in the elite Navy SEALs, amassing seven warzone deployments, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart — as well as a tour in Seal Team Six, the secretive unit that went on to kill Osama bin Laden. Born and raised as Chris Beck, she was a man’s man — a football player, avid motorcyclist, and war hero.
According to the book, 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.”
“For years Chris had turned off his sexuality like a light switch and lived as a warrior, consumed with the battle — living basically asexual,” the book says. “For Chris the other SEALs were brothers and in the man’s man warrior lifestyle, even if he had wanted to entertain sexual thoughts, there really was never any time to be thinking too much about sexuality.”
It was only after retiring in 2011 that Chris felt the time was right “to make his body match his identity.” Speckhard says Beck is currently on hormone therapy in preparation for sexual reassignment surgery and generally wears long hair, make-up and women’s clothes.
While the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” lifted the ban on openly gay soldiers serving in the military, transgender people are still prohibited due to discriminatory medical regulations. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 20% of transgender people serve in the military — compared to 10% of all Americans.
However, in an unprecedented move, the Navy agreed to change transgender vet Autumn Sander’s sex on her personal records after years of fighting. Beck’s decision to publicly discuss her journey adds another crucial voice to the call for equality and non-discrimination in the armed forces.