TAMPA - Several months ago, a photograph began making its way around Tampa's tight-knit Navy SEAL community that raised more than a few eyebrows. It was a picture from retired SEAL Chris Beck's LinkedIn site. The picture showed Beck, a 20-year veteran of SEAL Team 6 and two other teams, dressed as a woman. "Initially, I thought it was a joke," said Tucker Campion, a retired SEAL who worked with Beck at U.S. Special Operations Command headquarters in Tampa. "Knowing Chris, he was always yanking your cord about something." Beck wasn't joking.
Beck, who lives in St. Petersburg and is now known as Kristin Beck, released a book on Kindle this week about her decision to become a woman. She co-wrote "Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy Seal's Journey to Coming Out Transgender'' with Anne Speckhard, an adjunct associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School. "After I retired from the SEALs I started a journey into unknown territory for myself," Beck writes. "I found a large number of people with similar issues and found that there is a huge misconception in the American public and even the medical community on gender." Beck writes that she wrote the book primarily because of the high suicide rate among transgendered people. A high school football player, father to two sons and twice married, Beck acknowledges that her family is struggling to come to terms with her new sexual identity. An "Honor Man" while undergoing SEAL training, she writes about as a child wanting to "change bodies" with sister Hanna and enjoying the thrill of dressing up in her sister's clothes. Beck went on to become a Senior Chief, was deployed 13 times to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and earned the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. In an interview with the Tribune last year, Beck talked about being wounded during a 2008 rocket attack in Afghanistan, an incident Beck shrugged off at the time as part of the job. "A few guys got hurt, the medics pulled the metal out, we got bandaged up and went back out the next night," Beck said at the time. "That's what we do." She never talked about her gender identity until after retiring and, in a statement, said that she is now receiving support from the Veterans Administration and Socom's Care Coalition, In an email, Beck declined comment for this story. Campion, who retired in 2000 as commander of SEAL Team 3, said he's known Beck for about a decade. The two worked together at Socom purchasing units before Beck left for a job at the Pentagon. Beck worked in the Pentagon's Rapid Reaction Technology Office as a conduit between operators and the people who design weapons systems and other special operations tools of the trade. She now works with a military contractor and runs a nonprofit program for veterans called "Healing Grounds." The charity's mission, according to Beck, "is to have a specialized community service focused nursery and gardens for returning Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans. ... Too many of my comrades are returning from the battle grounds of Iraq and Afghanistan and do not find peace and worse are committing suicide." Campion, who last saw Beck about three years ago, said Beck had a tremendous reputation among the special operations community while at Socom. "During my time with him at Socom, I know that Chris was always thinking about innovative ways to come up with solutions," said Campion. "When Chris Beck was working he was always 100 percent there. I commend him for being honest about things. He is going to garner a lot of support throughout the community." email@example.com (813)259-7629 Twitter: @haltman