Thursday, December 04, 2014

"Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy Seal's Journey to Coming Out Transgender"

Authors: Kristin Beck (U.S. Navy Seal, Ret.), and Anne Speckhard, Ph D.
Title: “Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy Seal’s Journey to Coming Out Transgender
Publication: Advances Press (McLean, Va), 2013, ISBN 978-935866-42-8, 232 pages, hardcover (available paper and Kindle); Foreword, Press Release, Preface and Prelude and Three Parts (“Lives”), with about 60 very short unnumbered chapters

Amazon link is here. I reviewed from the hardcover, purchased through Amazon. 
Kristin Beck was born as Christopher T.  Beck on June 21, 1966, and would serve twenty years as a U.S. Navy Seal, from 1991-2011, participating in thirteen deployments, seven of which were combat.
Kristin relates that she always perceived herself as a woman inside. She was brought up by conservative parents who believed in strict adherence to gender roles.  She says she was envious of her sister Hannah, who seemed privileged and protected.  Why were things expected of him (as Chris) that weren’t expected of girls?  I used to wonder that as a little boy. The “women and children first” idea made me wonder if I was supposed to be a second class citizen.  Of course, at a young age, I had no concept of how childbearing works.
Chris, however (unlike me) was fully competitive as a boy physically, and eventually went to VMI.  He let up academically after playing sports, and eventually transferred to Alfred.  After some relatively normal employment, he decided to join the military in 1991, as the Persian Gulf War, opposing Saddam Hussein, heated up. He found he could suppress his transgender feelings by extreme focus on physical military matters.
He married twice, and had children by the first marriage.  (He actually describes his first experience in sexual intercourse at age 22, where he lay on the bottom and pretended he was a female anyway, despite the male performance role.)  The deployments put strains on the marriages.
Beck retired in 2011, moved to Florida and began the transition to a female almost immediately.  In two different places, Beck describes using laser treatments to permanently remove all hair from his beard, chest and arms (“thmooth”), but being satisfied to merely shave his legs.  I’m reminded of products like “NoNo”, advertised on CNN on weekends, but as one looks around, they don’t seem to be as popular as the manufacturers would have you believe (fortunately).
The co-author, Speckhard, is a psychologist at Georgetown University in Washington DC.  Speckhard had been doing a study on psychological resilience of special troops in the military and at first did not know that Beck had transitioned to a woman until they met (as planned) in a gay bar.
CNN aired the film “Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story”, reviewed on the Movies Blog, Sept. 4, 2014. Beck spoke to the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance at a dinner on Sunday, November 23, reviewed here on my LGBT blog that date. 

It's important to note that the US military still formally bans transgendered people;  the lifting of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 2011 did not pertain to transgender. In 1993, Scott Peck (the son of a marine colonel who had argued for the gay ban during the early days of the debate on DADT), conducting his own radio show Sunday nights, interviewed a transgendered person who had left the Navy but had the same job in intelligence as a civilian.  (Actually, intelligence services didn't drop "ban" on gay civilian employees until 1996, after another Clinton executive order that is little known.)
At the QA in Arlington VA Nov. 23, Kristin said something to the effect that she had given up all rights to the book.  I can find at least one complaint online (on “pissedconsumer”, from 2013, marked “issue not resolved”).  Normally an author telling her own story should not lose rights to own her material and distribute or sell her content in other ways (in my own experience as a self-publisher, where I do all my own writing).  I cannot tell online reliably how Advances Press works with authors, other than the fact that Speckhard was a co-author  – one can tell the subject matter of the press from the website here
Second picture: Portsmouth, VA harbor (my visit, Oct. 2011). 

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