Wednesday 21 May 2014

Interview with Kristin Beck

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Kristin Beck, aka Lady Valor, a retired United States Navy SEAL, recipient of multiple military awards, and author and recent actress as well as other endeavors that we shall hear about shortly. Hello Kristin!
Kristin: Hi Monika and Monika's fans. I am very happy to have some time with you and share some of my recent happenings here in Washington DC.
Monika: Your coming out generated a lot of interest from the media. Were you satisfied with the way the media covered your story?
Kristin: Overall the media has been very gracious concerning my story. The comments in social media however are quite another story. My lesson learned is “never read the commentary of a story.” Anderson Cooper was amazing and I am very happy with the entire media treatment from him and the entire production team at CNN.
A quick take on my story and the media is the following.
I came out to friends and co-workers at the Pentagon in February of 2013 and started work on a book that was on the back burner for the last decade. I had to finish a book as the story was being piecemeal doled out to various media sources and didn’t make sense.
I started to work with a psychologist and the book was released in June 2013; that is when the media turned on in full force. I had requests from dozens of media outlets but decided that I wanted to just work with Anderson Cooper of CNN. I never wanted to be a “talking head” or turn my story into a talk show sideline, so my decision to only work with CNN worked for me.
As it turns out I totally disagree with the book “Warrior Princess” as my story; it turned into a pop-psychology treatise from the mind of a psychologist and most of my writing is blurred. If you read that book you will see the two styles of writing and understand why I am so upset with the resultant book. I am working on a new book called “Lady Valor” and it will be 100% my story and cover everything.

Courtesy of Kristin Beck.

Monika: You were a brilliant soldier. For 20 years you served in the Navy SEALs and took part in 13 deployments, including seven combat tours. In addition, you were also a member of the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (also known as SEAL Team Six), a special counter-terrorism unit, receiving multiple military awards. Did you meet many female soldiers in the Armed Forces?
Kristin: I met many female soldiers who were in the US forces and many other allied countries. Everyone I met during my years of service was exceptional in their commitment to duty.
I was honored to serve my country and the journey toward a lasting peace among the nations of this world. I was a soldier and served and wish to continue this service as a civilian, possibly run for office at a later date. 
I really feel the best politicians we have are the ones who served in the Armed Forces as they know deep within their souls the meaning behind Liberty and Freedom.
Monika: The media speculated that your story may force the Department of Defense to revisit its policies against transgender people openly serving in the US Military. Did it happen?
Kristin: The Secretary of Defense has recently come out with an announcement that the ban on transgender service in the US Military will be reviewed. This is a huge step forward from where we were a year ago. Did my “coming out” help with this step forward in equality for transgender Americans?
My coming out was in magazines and news shows around the world; it was a big splash and it was at least read or seen by many of our leaders in Washington DC, it may have been an influence. Time and history will tell.
Monika: Is there any organization lobbying for transgender rights in the US Military?
Kristin: There are a few organizations that are lobbying for the rights of the LGBT community, I am not part of any of them and have been working on my own thus far.
Monika: What arguments could be used in order to convince the US generals to accept transgender soldiers?
Kristin: We are capable and want to serve. There are currently hundreds of transgender Americans serving in combat zones right now as civilian contractors or government civilians side by side with our military. These transgender Americans who are currently serving are doing the job, so can those in uniform.
Monika: Intentionally or unintentionally you became one of the icons of the American transgender community. How do you feel about it? Do you participate in any projects advocating the transgender cause?
Kristin: I give motivational speeches and keynote addresses around the country. I will continue to voice my opinions and feelings about who are as people and hopefully continue the march toward equality and freedom. I truly believe that all of us can be a shining light to those who are in the darkness; we can inform the uninformed and bring peace to those in need; it just takes a spark to get the fire aflame.

Courtesy of Kristin Beck.

Monika: In June 2013, you published your memoir titled “Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL's Journey to Coming out Transgender”, detailing your experiences as a transwoman. Which aspects of your transition experience could be relevant and inspiring for the other transgender ladies?
Kristin: Don’t sign a contract with a psychologist who specializes in PTSD and terrorism especially when they say “We don’t need lawyers, trust me and just sign on the dotted line."
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Kristin: My role models are Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, and the inventor Hedy Lamarr. I am sure there are many other women and transgender people that I would call heroes now as I am learning more and more about the movement, but in the past, I didn’t really have anyone to emulate and thought I was alone.
I think this happens to many of us; we start our journey and just put our heads down and do our best. I would hope that with the internet and so many publications and groups that the next generations of trans* men and women have information and heroes to aid them on their journey of discovery.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Kristin: The most difficult thing is the unintended consequences of our personal actions. My coming out caused ripples in my family and friends and other circles that I may never know. Our choices affect so many other people and things, we should all do our best and also understand the many effects of our actions.
Monika: Could transgenderism be the new frontier for human rights?
Kristin: It is the new frontier of Human Rights, that is a fact. If you wish to see the compassion and understanding of humanity in this day and age look toward societies treatment of its “most disenfranchised” group of people…. at this time it is the transgender person and we are being murdered, beaten to death at a rate of about one per week in the USA. Around the world you can see the treatment…. we are the litmus paper of humanity and humanity is not doing so well.

Courtesy of Kristin Beck.

Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Kristin: I am active in politics as much as my current job allows. I hope to run for office in the near future. Anyone with passion can make a difference, whether that difference is positive and lasting is up to the platform and the resolve of that person and their followers.
I believe American politics should be a microcosm of AMERICA and transgender is a part of our country, we should be in the mix on the hill and all levels of government.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Kristin: I love fashion and up until recently I kept my fashion sense limited to jeans and black sabbath or Harley T-shirts. I did a fashion shoot for Flaunt Magazine and wore Tom Ford originals and other high-end fashion items…
I am addicted now, God help me…. Doing that fashion show was the coolest experience I have had in recent times; I hope to do more fashion in the future.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Kristin: I am the spokesperson of the 296 project which is a non-profit “art therapy” group out of Arlington Virginia. Many of the warriors coming back from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places around the world have wounds that are not seen. PTSD is a silent killer and a struggle that so many of us deal with every day.
The 296 project offers our warriors a way to express and come to terms with themselves and the feelings that they endure. I am proud to be part of this project. The 296 project is sponsoring a solo art show in Arlington on June 6th, 2014 that will benefit many of our returning soldiers.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls, struggling with gender dysphoria?
Kristin: We are all beautiful, we are all worthy and we all deserve dignity and respect. Keep your head up and endure the difficult times, because there are great times coming soon. I love you all as brothers and sisters.
Monika: Kristin, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Kristin Beck.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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