Kristin Beck, born Christopher Beck is known to be the first female Navy SEAL. She was first interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper in June of 2013 and quickly became known throughout the world. Soon after, she became a civil rights activist giving speeches nation-wide. Beck is the subject of the upcoming CNN documentary film, Lady Valor, which will premieres on Thursday, September 4th at 9 pm EST.
She has prepared and briefed position papers on Special Operations Forces- unique technology for State Department and White House approvals. As a result of these outstanding achievements, Kristin Beck received the coveted NDIA 2010 Special Operations Award. Now a civil rights activist, she gives speeches and lectures at various events around the country. Kristin was a key voice in the Congressional Bill to end discrimination toward the LGBT Community. Beck offers services in consulting, law enforcement training, motivational speeches, innovation collaborations, as well as creating many types of art and original works.
Kevin Williams: CNN is premiering “Lady Valor” this week after holding its festival premiere at SXSW. For any independent documentary film, that is huge. Millions of people will see this film about your life and your career in the SEALS and afterward. Any thoughts on that?
Kristin Beck: Everyone is super-excited about it for sure. But… in that cover story in Time Magazine (May 29th, 2014 issue with actress Laverne Cox), they really didn’t tell my side of the story. I was in the military. I’m not going to be a fashion model and be that tall, beautiful woman. Not ever. But I’m still going to ride my Harley and go to the range and shoot machine guns. I’m probably a lot further to the Right than anyone else in the LGBT Community, so I don’t really fit the stereotypes that they want me to fit.
Kevin Williams: How has screening the film out onto the film festival circuit been for you?
Kristin Beck: It’s been pretty neat. It’s been pretty much the same thing regarding my going and spreading the message. I look a bit different now without the beard and machine guns! People don’t really recognize me for the most part. I just walk around like an invisible person. So it is kind of cool (at the film festivals).
Kevin Williams: How have the Q&A sessions been after your film screenings?
Kristin Beck: The Q&As were very interesting. I think I surprised a lot of people because I studied philosophy in college and have always been into that. I have been diving really deep into theology, international politics, relations and other things. So I don’t talk about the same stuff that I think is usually talked about at film festivals. I go into the intellectual side and it kind of throws the audience for a loop.
Kevin Williams: Well, part of that might be that at film festivals, a lot of people hold a stereotype that people in the military are unintelligent dunderheads…
Kristin Beck: Well, it has been really interesting. The Q&As have been really cool. I’ve learned a lot about the film industry and what goes on behind the scenes. I’ll tell you what… filmmaking is a lot harder than people can imagine. I have a lot of respect for people who make films.
Kevin Williams: How long did it take for the “Lady Valor” filmmakers to make this film you are in?
Kristin Beck: We filmed for about five months.
Kevin Williams: Wow! That must have been intense.
Kristin Beck: The full thing, including contracts and everything… six months later we were at the SXSW Film Festival. When I started talking to people, they always ask how long did we do this for? From the first bit of shooting to showing the film at SXSW took about six months.
Kevin Williams: Are you happy with the film and how it turned out?
Kristin Beck: Yes. There are a few things that I’d like to change. When I look at my own life, I said “Oh my God, I can’t believe that I said that!” or “Why was I wearing that? I have something else better to wear.” When you look at your life over a five-month period of time, you look back at some things and say, “That was a really dumb thing to do…” When the cameras are rolling for a while, you just stop filtering and you get used to them. The cameras become part of the wallpaper and you see yourself later in different ways.
Kevin Williams: Sometimes a cause finds people or people find a cause… what it your cause and how did you come to be a part of it?
Kristin Beck: The cause found me after I found myself. I don’t know… it is just one of those things where I’m fighting for a group of people who have been totally marginalized group. Even within the LGBT community, the transgender group is totally misunderstood. You still have all the drag queens who for the most part are gay men who entertain and then you have crossdressers who very many times are married guys who have a fetish about women’s clothing. So there are all these various divisions of people who are all lumped together under “transgender,” which has kind of made it more confusing for lesbian and gay people. It is even more greatly confusing for the straight world. Do you see what I mean?
Kevin Williams: Yes.
Kristin Beck: So I found a group of people who are basically like how I have been my whole life. I never knew how to explain it and I was in the military, so I couldn’t do anything. I just kind of had to kind of hide out. So I never really pursued any information on it and never pursued anybody who is part of the community until after I retired. When I retired, I kind of like… the parking brake was taken off and I could pretty much do whatever I wanted. I was able to see all the stuff I missed. It was like I had a vision for the first time in my life. I was looking around at a greater world and seeing a lot of things. So the group that I identified with is transgendered females. That is what I am.
Kevin Williams: Did it feel like you were in sort of a bubble while you were in the the SEALS and did that help you deal with everything?
Kristin Beck: Totally. When you are in the military, you are 100% laser-focused on the mission and what you are doing. Especially for me in the SEAL Teams. I think for other people in the military, it might not be quite as strict or isolated. Even amongst the SEAL Teams, we don’t interact with the regular Navy very much. As far as the Army or even Special Forces we interact with them a little bit, but not much either. With the SEAL Teams, we are pretty isolated from the rest of the Military. It is pretty intense and we are by ourselves doing our work.
Kevin Williams: Well as far as the Military goes… what are their fears towards having people like yourself serving or other people serving who happen to be transgender?
Kristin Beck: I think that the same stereotypes, misinformation, bigotry and uninformed opinions are the same ones that the lesbians and gays used to face. Transgender people are facing all that now. Imagine the days before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” We’re now in that period of time where we have a lot of people looking and they’re going… the only thing they can say is “what in the hell?” Because they don’t know… it just confuses and befuddles them when they see me walking around. I have my dress on and when people look, they seem to think that this is a fetish thing. They don’t really know or understand it. It is confusing for them.
Kevin Williams: Do you think that TV shows like Jerry Springer or movies like Ace Ventura influenced how regular people see you today?
Kristin Beck: Well, it is like that [character] Frankenfurter the from Rocky Horror Picture Show or that stupid movie, Silence of the Lambs. I mean, almost every bit of media or even movies dealing with being transgender… has always been negative and very bad.
Kevin Williams: Is being transgender something maybe medical or biological?
Kristin Beck: There has been a lot of studies on this. There is a chemical thing that happens before the fetus is even born, during week seven or eight, that happens which determines your sex in the beginning. Then your gender identity and a lot of your other functions in how you form as a human being happen when you are in the womb. Of these, estrogen and testosterone and everything else that your mother is putting into the fetus, that is what forms us as people. It is just one more part of that whole thing. Human beings have billions of combinations of cells and combinations of estrogen and testosterone. Look at our skin color, hair color or eye color. There are billions and billions of possibilities. You can’t say that the only two [exact] possibilities are male and female. It isn’t 100% female or 100% male. I don’t think that there is any human being on earth through the history of man that could have been 100% one or the other. There is no such thing. It is all just a series of grayness. We are what we are.
How many combinations of male and female can you have? I think there are thousands and thousands. I’m somewhere on the spectrum, but I don’t [exactly] know where I’m on the spectrum.
Kevin Williams: Well, do you think there are any particular qualities that transgender people can offer the Military? I know there is a lot of talk about the negatives?
Kristin Beck: I’m really, really strong for a girl! Ha-ha. The thing is and I think I can say this for the Republican Party… for a lot of religious people and anyone else… hey, I’m a human being! I’m here and I’m not abnormal. I’m a normal human being. I have normal wants and needs, problems, good stuff, victories and defeats… I’m a normal person. I still have the same soul, still have the same mind. Pretty much the same body. Except a couple of minor changes here and there, but not very much. I am the same person.
That is why I am saying for the Republican Party, for all the Conservatives, the Christian Right and other people in the Military, “Hey man. I’m just another human and if you can’t accept human beings for being human, that is not a good thing.” For the Republicans to deny any of this or that gay people even exists and to not represent them… how many Republican Congressmen in Congress right now have gay people in their district? I bet you there are a ton of them!
Kevin Williams: Well, there are three openly gay Republican Congressional candidates running right now… Richard Tisei (Massachusetts), Dan Innis (New Hampshire) and Carl DeMaio (California).
Kristin Beck: You have to represent everyone. You can’t just represent yourself and people like you. It doesn’t make sense. Represent your district. Represent your people. Now, the same thing goes for the Military. If the Military is not a fighting force made up of every possible American you can think of… they aren’t looking at America through the proper lens. I think that has always been a problem with our Military, even back in the 50s when they were still integrating African Americans. When the Blacks were being integrated into the Military, look how hard that was. It makes no sense to have so many people living in our country and to have it defended by primarily one demographic group. You want things to be diverse as possible. There should be transgender people in the Military and the Republicans should represent us so we can give a better voice [on things].
Kevin Williams: Are any of the Services amenable to what you want to have happen?
Kristin Beck: I was at a meeting at the Pentagon and the Commandant of the Marine Corps walked past me and I was wearing a classy dress and I had my medals on… he patted me on the shoulder and said thank you for your service. Wouldn’t you think the Marine Corps would be the most staunch or the most against something like this? I would think that everyone would shake their head and say, “yes.” The Marine Corps are the hard-core of the hard-core.
For the Commandant and the Chief of Naval Operations and a few other Joint Chiefs were in the room and out of all of them… the Commandant was the only one to say, “thank you for your service.” And I said, “thank you, sir!” It was a really neat gesture from someone representing the toughest of the tough… the Marine Corps! I think that all of us need to look at ourselves as human beings and really understand that we are very diverse. None of us are the same.
Kevin Williams: How much of an impact do you think that you are making on the issue?
Kristin Beck: Well, I moved from Florida to Washington, D.C. to work on this issue. I wanted to be closer to the flagpole. To be closer to the people who are making the decisions and I wanted to have an impact. This is the time. If it happens, it’ll be pretty soon because it is a conversation that is going on right now. It is a conversation that is relevant to what is going on in America right now. In America, approximately one transgendered woman is beaten to death every week. I say approximately, because when we have our Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20th each year, it is right around fifty names that are read. Almost fifty transgender women are killed in America after being beaten, shot, hung or any other way you can think of. They’re murdered. I can’t understand how it can get to the point where it is so targeted and there’s such hatred. It is so scary.
Part 1 of 2
To see more of Kristin Beck’s artwork, please visit www.ladyvalor.com. “Lady Valor” will premiere on CNN on Thursday, September 4th at 9 PM EST and will be rebroadcast multiple times on the network. To get more information on the film, please visit www.ladyvalorfilm.com or check out Kristin Beck on Twitter at @TheLadyValor.
- CNN’s Lady Valor: Kristin Beck Interview Part II (politisite.com)