By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com June 04 2013 11:20 AM ET
In a historic first, a retired Navy SEAL who served in the elite Team 6 — the unit that killed Osama Bin Laden — has come out as transgender in a new memoir available today.
In Warrior Princess, Kristin Beck discusses her two decades of military service in the elite, all-male unit, and her subsequent transition with frank honesty, describing how, over the course of 13 international deployments, she gradually came to terms with her gender identity, though she couldn't express it during wartime.
Beck identified as a man named Chris while in the Navy, and after retiring in 2011, underwent medically necessary hormone therapy to facilitate her transition process, according to the Atlantic Wire.
Beck, who now lives in St. Petersburg, Fla., says her former colleagues were, by and large, supportive, according to an excerpt published in the Atlantic:
Soon, the responses from SEALs stationed all around the world suddenly started pouring in: "Brother, I am with you ... being a SEAL is hard, this looks harder. Peace" * "I can't say I understand the decision but I respect the courage. Peace and happiness be upon you...Jim" * " ... I just wanted to drop you a note and tell you that Kris has all the support and respect from me that Chris had ... and quite possibly more. While I'm definitely surprised, I'm also in amazement at the strength you possess and the courage necessary to combat the strangers and 'friends' that I'm guessing have reared their ugly heads prior to and since your announcement. ..."
Although Beck is not the first veteran to come out as transgender, she is the first Navy SEAL to do so, according to the Transgender Law Center.
While the 2011 repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell,' opened the door for service by gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans, transgender people are still barred from service by a set of military regulations that classify a transgender identity or any gender-affirming medical procedures as symptomatic of a mental illness.
The Advocate's sister publication Out notes that the Navy SEALs have been the nation's premier defenders since World War II, and teams are known to be made up of "manly men."
Out.com Editors contributed to this report.