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What Kristin Beck’s narrative means to trans open service

Commentary: Trans Progressive

Kristin Beck

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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Posted by on Jun 13, 2013. Filed under Bottom Highlights, Trans Progressive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

6 Comments for “What Kristin Beck’s narrative means to trans open service”

  1. A Woman, Period

    First off, while there is talk of allowing women to serve in “combat roles,” it is not a much of a done deal as is implied here. For example, there is still talk of excluding them from roles in groups such as a SEAL team. And even if such a foolhardy move were to be made, it does not change the fact that accommodations for someone who identifies as transgender would be more complex. Clearly, this person would not welcome with the males, or the females. They would require yet another set of accommodations which would further complicate the situation.

    And all of this ignores the very real mental health issues that often accompany identification as transgender. Granted, I personally have doubts that a person who is actually transsexual, as opposed to, perhaps a crossdresser who might later decide to go further, could actually survive twenty years in the military. I personally know the stresses that come from delaying transition, and I would certainly have not been able to serve in such a capacity for twenty days, let alone twenty years.

    The purpose of the military is to defend our nation, not to serve as a social experiment. It is one thing to argue for service by someone who is gay or lesbian, but to argue for open service by those who identify as transgender is absurd.

    • And yet, Trans people serve successfully in other country’s military. I guess they’re just better at the equality stuff than us.

      As for mental health issues, some trans people have debilitating mental health issues, and some have none at all – just like non-trans people.

      Why do “accommodations” need to be any more complex for Trans women? Unless you’re talking about pre-operative (which admittedly could present a problem), post-op trans women need nothing out of the ordinary compared to cis females. I think you’re projecting your own personal difficulties into the issue. Some people glide through their transitions with very few problems. You just don’t hear from them, because they don’t have anything to complain about. They’re busy living as women, period.

  2. and then there is the LA helicopter pilot who made those oh-so-classic comments to TMZ that the HRT has and will affect his abilities to make snap decisions. Oh so much fun when the tee-gee brigade cannot even get their stories right about their “laydee brain” and the impact of HRT.

    • That interview was a double face palm moment.
      What a total fool, and a fool that Tee-Gee made of the rest of them.

    • A Woman, Period

      Sadly, a lot of transgender people seem to revel in such things. While HRT might have some affect on spatial perception, (which is related to testosterone levels) I have never heard of it affecting one’s ability to make “snap decisions.” But hey, a lot of “trans women” do seem to like such ideas.

  3. After reading a few of these comments I’m concerned that people are missing the big picture. Kristen Beck did not do what she did as a social experiment nor did she ask to choose to live such a hard life only to trade it for an even harder one. Being a member of the LGBT community is like being a social outcast. I know because I’m a member myself. I share a similar story as Kristen and can honestly with total conviction that we have earned the respect that we are often denied. I believe I can speak for her and I in the fact that we are very proud of our achievements and have proved so many of the stereotypes wrong. We are your brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, etc and it’s sad that we are scrutinized for being different. I don’t ask for special treatment and never have as I’m sure Kristen didn’t. We are also members of whats commonly referred to as “The 1% Club”. That is that only about 1% of Americans serve our nation, with even less completing the full 20 year commitment required for retirement. Kristen is not alone, I am not alone. We are here. We’ve been here and will continue to be a part society all the while hoping for the respect we have earned. Kristen if you by chance come across this I hope you know that you have my respect and support as well as any other straight or LGBT service member and for the 99% of Americans out there who may or may not respect us…..per my oath I will continue to serve you and my family and hope that in return I’m accepted for my sacrifices.

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