Kristin Beck, a transgendered retired Navy SEAL who struggled with life-long gender identity problems, says she has nothing but contempt for the Army private who blamed gender issues in part for leaking nearly a million classified documents. “Someone that does something like that, then uses an excuse to behave badly, is an amazingly poor human being,” said Beck, now a St. Petersburg resident, in a telephone interview moments before boarding an airplane. On Wednesday, Pvt. Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years on espionage and other charges for sending government secrets to Wikileaks. This morning, Manning, through his attorney, announced that he was beginning hormone treatment to become a woman and that he should be referred to as Chelsea Manning. Manning's struggle with gender identity disorder – the sense of being a woman trapped in a man's body – was key at his court-martial.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Paul Adkins testified as a defense witness, saying in April 2010, just a month before Manning was arrested, the soldier emailed him a picture of himself in a blonde wig and lipstick with a letter titled, “My problem.” “I don't know what to do anymore, and the only 'help' that seems to be available is severe punishment and/or getting rid of me,” the email said. “All I do know, is that fear of getting caught has caused me to go to great lengths to consciously hide the problem.” Manning's attorney said the email was evidence the military knew of Manning's struggles, yet allowed him to stay in Iraq as an intelligence analyst and keep his security clearance. Beck, a 20-year SEAL who served on the Navy Special Warfare Development Group among other teams, doesn't know Manning, but followed the case in the media. She says that Manning is a “liar and a thief. “He signed an oath to the country and its information, and he lied when he signed that oath,” said Beck. “He is a thief because he took information away from who it belonged to and gave it to other people. It is illegal on so many levels.” Gender issues have nothing to do with Manning's actions, said Beck. ”Just because he puts a wig on doesn't matter,” said Beck. “It just makes him the same human being who is a liar and a thief. People are people. No matter who you are, you are the same person. That person is a straight-up criminal. No matter what he wears, or how he cuts his hair, that doesn't change a person's soul.” Back in June, Beck released a book on Kindle 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. 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. After retiring, 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.” 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.” Beck said her gender issues never interfered with her job. “For me, what I am going through, did not change my integrity, dignity, or respect for our country,” said Beck. “What he did pisses me off. That person is a criminal and deserved more time.” This story contains information from The Associated Press. email@example.com (813) 259-7629 @haltman