A Navy SEAL's biggest secret: Life as a transgender

    2:21 PM, Jun 4, 2013   |    comments
    (Photo: Advances Press)
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    UNDATED (USAToday.com) - In the super-secret world of the U.S. Navy SEAL, Chris Beck carried around a explosive secret of his own during his 20 years with the elite, all-male unit: His transgender life.

    In the memoir Warrior Princess, published Tuesday, retired Navy SEAL Kristin Beck -- formerly Chris -- writes about life struggling with her sexual identity, and then going public.

    The 46-year-old Beck served 20 years as a Navy SEAL, including seven combat deployments, and earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

    He retired from Navy SEAL Team 6 in 2011, only months before it raided Osama bin Laden's hide-ou, and was always careful to keep secret to himself.
    Warrior Princess

    Kristin, who works as a military consultant in the Tampa, Fla., area, decided in March to go public by posting a new LinkedIn profile picture of herself dressed as a woman.

    "I am now taking off all my disguises and letting the world know my true identity as a woman," Beck wrote on her LinkedIn page.

    Beck said some SEAL buddies thought at first that it was a joke, but she assured them it wasn't.

    She began hormonal treatment three months ago.

    In her memoir, Beck notes the irony of one mission as a Navy SEAL in which he was disguised as an Afghan man to blend in with female-hating Taliban men.

    "It was weird that I could grow a beard and trick them into thinking I was one of them -- and really I'm an Amazon woman in disguise as a U.S. military guy in disguise as a Pashtun!"

    The book is dedicated to his family, to the "underdogs, the activists, the downtrodden," and to his SEAL teammates, to whom he offers a personal message: "I am still the same person with the same experience and the same spirit."

    The memoir, published by Advances Press, notes that Beck has been married twice and has two sons, but was often removed from their early life because of frequent deployments and to avoid dealing with his own issues.

    The book includes some reactions from this former team members, including praise for Beck's courage in the forward, which was written by former boss, retired Navy SEAL and astronaut William Shepherd.

    Other reactions:

    • "Being a SEAL is hard. This looks harder."

    • "I am thankful that your decision was to confront your challenges rather than, as you stated in your own words, 'put a shotgun in your mouth.' "

    • "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."

    Beck's co-author is Anne Speckhard, an adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School, whose has specialized on post-traumatic stress disorder and counterterrorism.

    What's striking about Beck, she said, is how normal she is. "She's healthy, normal, a next-door neighbor person."

    Speckhard described Beck, who attended VMI, as a highly competitive individual who played sports in school and always wanted to serve in the military.

    Speckhard said she does not see Beck's decision to join the Navy SEALs as an act of overcompensation, rather as fitting his character as a high achiever.

    "As a woman, he would have joined the SEALs as well," Speckhard said. The Navy SEALs currently do not take female candidates.

    The Virginian Pilot, which serves a largely military area of Virginia, writes that transgender service is still forbidden in the military, even after the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" opened the military up to gay and lesbian servicemen and women.

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