Navy SEAL veteran Kristin Beck says that President Trump is taking liberty away from the very people who protect it for other Americans — the U.S. military.
Yahoo News reached out to Beck, a transgender woman who served in the military for 20 years, on Wednesday afternoon for her perspective on Trump’s polarizing announcement that transgender people will not be allowed to “serve in any capacity” in the U.S. military. Trump’s statement, contained in a series of tweets Wednesday morning, apparently reverses current Defense Department policy, which allows transgender service members to serve openly.
Beck, who was born on Long Island, N.Y., in 1966, served, as a male, in the United States Special Operations Command, SEAL Team One, SEAL Team Five and SEAL Team Six. Her many military decorations include the Bronze star with Valor, Purple Heart and Defense Meritorious Service Medal.
The elite Navy SEAL retired in 2011 with the rank of senior chief and continued to conduct high-level clearance work for the U.S. government and the Pentagon. But the entire time, Beck hid her true identity from friends and family.
In the spring of 2013, a year and a half after retiring, Beck revealed to the world that the person they knew as Christopher would start to live life as Kristin — first on LinkedIn, then on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.” Many friends and family members were surprised by the news.
The following interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity.
Yahoo News: What did you think when you first saw Trump’s tweets this morning?
Beck: I was surprised that it was released on a tweet and not a press conference or a policy [statement] through the Department of Defense. It was incredibly disrespectful. That’s the message delivery system? As for the message itself, it’s totally against everything that’s been said the past couple of years. You have all these folks who had a safe zone. They came out into that clearing of a safe zone. Now that safe zone is being bombed. It’s pretty bad. This is going to affect millions of people, and I don’t know if he realizes that.
Do you have a message for President Trump?
President Trump, what is the one word you would say America is? The one word I would say it is is “liberty.” It’s about individual liberty. It’s about us living our lives of liberty. And now you are taking away that liberty from lots of people. You’re destroying that. The fact that you’re doing it to people in the military is even worse because we’re the ones that defend liberty. It’s against everything that would be American. So I’d ask him, what would be his one word? I don’t think it could be liberty because he’s not living that right now. Is it freedom? I don’t think so. That’s what I’d have a conversation with him about.
Why do you think some people don’t want transgender people serving in the military? Where does this fear come from?
I think the fear goes back to the Bible and religion in some folks who are misguided through these words of the Old Testament. I don’t know about you, but these are not the interpretations of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism or even Islam that I’ve ever read. Interpretations are about humans being made in the image of God. All of us are. And what is that image? For you [Trump] to say that image is just clearly a white male or white female and that’s all we allow dates back to the 1950s and segregation. For you to say that it’s strictly this, you’re wrong to interpret God’s word like that. That’s what it all comes back to.
What do you think could be done to foster acceptance for transgender people in the military?
First I would say watch the movie “Lady Valor” (a documentary about Beck’s experience transitioning), and you would see the point of view that I have. It’s a pretty easy movie to watch. There’s a dog, a gun and a beer in every scene. It’s kind of funny, isn’t it? But you have to educate yourself. You can’t sit there and base all your information on one thing. You can go to so many places to gather information. If he’s [Trump’s] basing his entire policy on one point of view or one person, then it’s wrong. He needs to look at the world and open his eyes up.
What do you think of Trump’s argument that the U.S. can’t afford to pay for gender reassignment treatment?
The cost is negligible. We could buy one wheel for [Lockheed Martin’s] Joint Strike Fighter for the same price as everyone’s surgeries. And the thing is, not everyone who is transgender is going to get surgery. I’ve had zero surgeries. It cost the taxpayers zero. You see what I’m saying? All these people serving in uniforms, thousands and thousands of people, they have contracts. If you want to take all these contracts that you’ve promised [to transgender people] … talk about some contract law, talk about the lawsuits and bureaucracy. You’re going to end up costing about $4 million per person. So what’s more expensive?
Before we end, I’d like to ask you, what are you most proud of with your service in the military?
I’m most proud of one of my SEAL team commanders walking up to me and seeing me as Kristin. He said, “Hey, a lot of the other guys have been giving me a hard time. But you know what? I’ve known Chris for 20 years and he served with honor. And that sister will always be my brother.”
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