Former SEAL Team 6 Member's Transgender Story to Air on CNN

Thursday, 04 Sep 2014 02:20 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The story of a former member of SEAL Team 6, who is now a transgender woman, will be broadcast on CNN as part of her ongoing efforts to promote including transgender individuals as part of the nation's military.

Kristin Beck, formerly known as Senior Chief Petty Officer Christopher Beck, is a 20-year veteran. She came out last year as Kristin Beck, and since that time has become one of the best-known faces for transgender inclusion in the military, reports The Daily Beast.

On Thursday, her story will appear in a CNN documentary, "Lady Valor." Beck has already been on the network for a prime-time interview with Anderson Cooper.

Story continues below video.

Beck was deployed 13 times to locations from Bosnia to Afghanistan, and as Christopher Beck earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, while not admitting to undergoing a gender struggle. Beck's story has surprised her family, military comrades, and others as SEAL Team 6 is considered one of the military's most hard-core units.

"Everything I did for 20 years as a SEAL was for freedom and equality," she told The Daily Beast on Tuesday after arriving in New York for another interview with Cooper.

There are many transgender men and women in the military, "Lady Valor" shows in its opening scene at the annual Southern Comfort Conference, which attracts several transgender veterans.

But even though "don't ask, don't tell" was repealed last year, making it legal for gay people to join the military, transgender people are not allowed to legally serve. An estimated 150,000 have either served or are secretly serving, according to a report from the Williams Institute at UCLA.

Beck points out that she is "100 percent" sure the United States will legalize transgender military enlistments, as 18 other countries do.

"How about we start living what it said in the Bill of Rights and Constitution?," she said. "Then America would be a great country, but we keep screwing up."

A Palm Center report last week outlined a way for the ban to be overturned.

In addition, in May, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the prohibition on transgender people serving in the U.S. military "continually should be reviewed" and that he believes that "every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it."

According to experts, many transgender individuals serving secretly in the military are at risk for suicide, and Beck says she was no different.

In the film, Beck says that her discontentment with her life led her to volunteer for extra deployments and to run toward fire with no thought. Friends interviewed agreed that Beck, who calls her alter ego "the angry bearded Viking," was suicidal.

Beck often left behind a wife and two young sons to return for more deployments, and says she was "looking at the life insurance for the boys, and I just figured that maybe that was the best thing I could give them."

However, she "came out" by putting on a dress and walking into work at the Pentagon, and jokes that she doesn't "do anything halfway."

Her father says she was "all boy" growing up in Wellsville, N.Y., where as Christopher Beck she became a hometown hero by becoming a SEAL.

What her father didn't know was that often she would play sick to be alone in the house to try on her sisters' shoes and do her nails.

"It was like a reset … I could have my vacation away from Chris," she says in the film."I don’t think anyone really knew me."

For a while, her father would not accept that his son was a daughter, but in the film corrects himself after calling Beck a "he." And her mother would not be part of the film, but says she has changed her mind after seeing it.

"It’s all about the mission for me, and the end result is just treat me as a human, dignity and respect," Beck said later. "I don’t want special treatment. I just want a chance. At least give me opportunity."

But one military friend says that he has known Beck for 20 years, "and that sister is my brother," laughing at her high heels.

She says that her comrades know that she is still the same person, but is far from the bearded "Viking warrior" days.

"It’s hard to be a tough guy when you have a skirt on and high heels," she said. "I see myself as a better person because I like myself better."

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