Kristin Beck was born a boy, but she never felt comfortable with her gender identification. Beck had a secret desire to be like her sister, and she would try on her clothes in the hallways of elementary school when no one was looking. Due of the stigma associated with being a transgender person in the 1960s, she suppressed her emotions. When her father found her dressed in her sister’s ballet costume, she knew she had to change.
Kristin Beck Before and After
That’s not to suggest Kristin Beck was feeling all girly. For Beck, a Navy SEAL was a natural choice because of her family’s history of military duty. In an attempt to conform to the stereotypical male image, she married, had children, and attempted to be a good wife and mother, but things didn’t work out. For short periods between risky deployments and secret missions around the world, Beck would discreetly express herself as a woman.
There were no transgender persons in the military, so while Beck struggled with her gender identification, she felt it had to be one or the other: serve or live truly. She decided to give up her own identity in order to pursue her higher calling as a fierce warrior, sacrificing her identity in the process.
A decorated Navy veteran, Beck was honorably discharged after twenty years of duty. She began working at the Pentagon, pretending to be a man because of her extensive background and technological ability. In the end, it became clear that she had nothing to lose and everything to gain by coming out of the closet.
Your decision to join the military despite the fact that transgender people are prohibited from serving is an interesting one.
This has always been an area of interest for me, KB: The rough, hardened kid I was was a high school football player. I was the type to get into physical altercations. In high school, I devoured all things military-themed on television and in movies, and I aspired to be in law enforcement or the military. While serving in the Navy during World War II, my grandfather would recount tales of life on the water. During World War II, my uncle served in the Army during the Battle of the Bulge. They become your heroes because you hear about them so much as a child.
I used to hang out at the Vietnam Veterans Center when I was a high school student in the 1980s. After barely five years since the war ended, I’m in high school, hanging out with a group of Vietnam War veterans who are crazy, partying, and full of tales to tell. However, they’re not your average hippies.
Black Sabbath was still popular in the ’80s, but it was the hippies that were listening to it. The ’80s were strange. They had long hair and smoked their smokes, but if you crossed them, they’d beat the crap out of you. So they weren’t peacenik hippies, but hardcore hippies. Those Vietnam veterans gave out a great feeling to me, and I found that fascinating. It reminded me of Jack Kerouac, who you want to be around because they’re great but also because they’re searching for something. For the most part, that was my childhood experience. My lone high school application was for a military academy. The Virginia Military Institute accepted her, so she went there for college.
How came Kristin Beck out as gay after you left the Navy?
As a result of my retirement in 2011, the Pentagon asked me to work on a number of special initiatives afterward. The next day, I found myself in the Pentagon, dressed to the nines. With a yearly salary of almost $150,000 from working on specialized projects, I felt like I was living large. “Wait,” I thought to myself, “I’m no longer in uniform, but I’m still having to give up my identity, and it no longer makes any sense.”
It was in 2012 that I started venturing out on my own more frequently. So, I began going out almost every night of the week. As a retired person, I wanted to make the most of my time on this earth. As a result, in February of 2013, I switched from wearing a suit and tie to a dress and heels to go into the Pentagon. It was as if I decided, “Screw it; I’m going to be who I am and this is my life. I’m not giving up my identity, or anything else for that matter. I’m going to make an effort to be content with myself.
Such an event sent shockwaves throughout the community. Ashton Carter was the Secretary of Defense’s Assistant Secretary at the time. Ashton Carter was not yet the Defense Secretary at the time of this interview in 2013. He was right there when I walked out. He was able to see it all. As soon as he saw me stroll down the corridor with his group, he became aware of everything that was going on. As a result, I’m now unemployed. I’m on my way out.
Was there any element of your motivation to participate in the military that was motivated by a need to prove your manhood?
To establish my masculinity, I was the best obstacle course racer and the best marksman — I was a master at everything I tried. I was known as “Caveman.” While running a significant chapter of a motorcycle club, I served as president. In between automobiles, I’d ride my motorcycle at 80 mph. Everyone wanted to be like Caveman when they saw me.
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