What Kristin Beck’s narrative means to trans open serviceBottom Highlights, Trans Progressive Thursday, June 13th, 2013
Commentary: Trans Progressive
Retired Senior Chief Kristin Beck’s book Warrior Princess was recently released about her 20 years in the Navy and the beginning of her transition from male to female. I won’t presume I can editorialize about or retell her personal story found in the pages of her book better than others have – I’m certainly not a journalist of the caliber of CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and he’s done a report on Senior Chief Beck and her book. What I’d like to comment on instead is the implications of her story on the broader movement toward open service for trans people.
One of the many arguments that were made by the LGBT public policy organizations, such the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), was that we wouldn’t want to discharge hardcore fighting corps, such as SEALS and Army Rangers, just because they were gay. America would be removing tough, smart, well-trained soldiers out of America’s special forces for a reason that had nothing to do with whether or not they were effective at doing their jobs.
That’s an effective narrative, but the LGBT community never had any former SEALS or Army Rangers it could point to and say, “And this is the kind of special forces soldier you’ll kick out of the military if they said they were gay on active duty.”
In the trans community, we do have such a soldier now. We can now point to Kristin Beck and say, “If Senior Chief Beck came out as transgender while she was in the Navy SEALS, she would have been kicked out for a reason that had nothing to do with whether or not she were effective at doing her job. Is that what America really wants?”
And is it?
Since in the past few months it was announced that women will be soon be able to serve in combat, it’s been discussed in military circles that no doubt women will be serving in special forces. Our country’s military services are going to make public accommodations for women in these combat specialties. How many more accommodations would actually be required to accommodate a trans male or trans female special operations member than it would be to accommodate a cis female special operations member?
Those are questions for a national discussion on open trans military service, and the preparatory and backend work has been set in motion for this national discussion.
As I mentioned in a previous column, there are narratives of trans Department of Defense (DOD) contractors and civilian employees who’ve recently served in Middle Eastern combat zones – narratives such as those of Nicole Shounder, Rachel Bolyard and Erika Stetson. Then there’s my narrative of changing my recorded gender in the DOD databases showing that the DOD already acknowledges that trans servicemembers and veterans exist.
Then there is OutServe-SLDN, which besides having a trans West Point graduate as its executive director and having open service for trans servicemembers as part of their mission and vision, also has funding streams for working on the issue.
With retired Senior Chief Beck publicly coming out as trans two years after she retired from the Navy, and only a little more than a year after SEAL Team 6 killed Osama Bin Laden, we’re extremely close to that national discussion on open service for trans servicemembers beginning.
And as I stated in my speech at the San Diego Pride Stonewall Rally on open military service for trans servicemembers: “We’ve come so far on LGBT military service issues, but we’ve still not achieved ordinary equality for all of us. We won on open service for lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers with the aid of activism of the monstrous; with hard work and perseverance we’ll win on open service for trans servicemembers because we are, as a broad LGBT community, monstrously self-empowered … monstrously powerful.
“And, as we march forward tomorrow, and the many days after tomorrow, let’s remember we shouldn’t leave anyone behind; let’s remember we shouldn’t leave the transgender servicemembers behind.”
Kristin Beck, God bless her, and her narrative of being a highly decorated SEAL has brought open service for trans servicemembers to the fore. It won’t be very much longer at all until it’s not just LGBT press talking about open service for trans people, but the American people themselves.
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