Kristin Beck spent 20 years in the Navy: She served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and racked up awards for her bravery, including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star with Valor. She also came out as a transgender woman in 2013.
This morning, when she saw that President Donald Trump had tweeted that transgender people like her will no longer be allowed to serve in the military, her initial reaction was disbelief.
"There are a bunch of WTFs. This doesn’t make any sense," the retired Navy SEAL told BuzzFeed News. "This upsets a lot of people and I think it’s a surprise to a lot of folks."
Trump's tweets came weeks after the House narrowly voted against a bill that would have denied transgender service members gender transition-related medical care.
The president's tweets suggest that spending on health care for transgender service members was one of the considerations in making his decision — that amount is actually only a small percentage of overall military health care spending (between $2.4 million and $8.4 million of a total $49.3 billion in fiscal year 2014, according to this study).
Beck says blaming health care costs is not a legitimate justification for excluding trans people.
"That’s a cop-out. It’s something else because the money was really not that much. Medical costs for transgender people are the equivalent of one price of one wheel of a fighter…it’s a leadership problem, take care of your people," she said.
Beck is a well-respected Navy SEAL veteran whose story gained wider visibility when, in 2014, documentarians Sandrine Orabona and Mark Herzog made a feature documentary about her life as a transgender woman and leader in the military. Beck says Trump and his team in the White House would do well to watch the film and educate themselves about both trans people and the military.
"The problem is education and if you watch that film there will definitely be a little bit of enlightenment of what’s going on," she said. "Watch that film before you start throwing out accusations and anything else."
New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney issued this statement this morning referring to Beck as an example of the value of including transgender people in the military:
“Anyone who doubts the lethality of our trans service members should say that to Kristin Beck’s face — she’s a transgender member of SEAL Team 6, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient.”
Beck says the move is "a mistake" — one that she hopes will galvanize the military and transgender communities against Trump in the coming elections.
"We have a huge community and he just empowered the community. He gave the community one flag to join under. One tweet changed the elections in 2018. It changed the presidential race in 2020," she said. "We’re going to rise up, change the landscape of America."
"This is about America. If you can take one word to describe America, it's 'liberty.' You’re taking for granted that liberty and you’re also saying that liberty only applies to you and doesn’t apply to me," she said.
And she wants to say this to the thousands of active serving transgender members in the military right now: "Don’t panic. People are working on it, and it’s going to be okay."