A decorated Navy SEAL who became the most high-profile veteran to advocate for allowing transgender Americans to serve openly in the U.S. military is no longer living as a woman and says he regrets contributing to the growing acceptance of trans rights for youth.
Chris Beck, known to most Americans as Kristin Beck, co-authored a 2013 memoir on his transition and was the subject of a 2014 CNN documentary, Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story. As Kristin, he attended rallies on LGBTQ rights and spoke at forums on transgender military service.
But during a Dec. 1 podcast with Robby Starbuck, a music video producer and conservative podcast host, Beck said he has returned to living as a man.
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"I'm not transgender ... I'm probably something else. I don't know what it is," Beck said.
The retired SEAL, who earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Combat "V" device during 20 years of service and seven combat deployments, attributed his transition decision to the mental health support he received at the Department of Veterans Affairs and elsewhere.
Beck said after spending "about an hour" with a VA psychologist, saying he had a habit as a child of wearing dresses and felt relief dressing in women's clothing, he was prescribed hormones. He was connected with another psychologist and as Kristin Beck, co-wrote a book with her about the experience, Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL's Journey to Coming Out. The day after the book was published, he came out nationally during an interview on CNN with Anderson Cooper and went on to be the most public face for trans rights in the U.S. military.
On the podcast, however, Beck said the experience "destroyed his life," and he now wants to speak out against what he said is not only the normalization of changing gender identity in American teens but the popularization of gender therapies.
"Do whatever you want if you are over the age of 25 ... If you are 25 or older, go do surgeries, go do everything you want, you are an adult," Beck said. "[But] thirteen-year olds should not have to unpack this."
Beck said that after an injury while on active duty he became addicted to opioids -- to the point that he was snorting crushed OxyContin pills -- and was prescribed a number of medications, including antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs.
During a session with a VA psychologist, he mentioned a childhood fondness for donning dresses, an activity he continued in private because it made him feel better. "I was trying to get rid of the cave man ... It was heavy on my heart the stuff we did in the war," Beck said.
He came to believe he was transgender without exploring in treatment his military trauma, possible gender dysphoria or other psychiatric conditions, he said.
"Everything that happened to me in the last 10 years, it destroyed my life -- no, I destroyed my life. I am not a victim. I did this to myself, but I had help," he said.
Beck did not return a request for comment from Military.com.
A Department of Veterans Affairs spokesman could not comment specifically on Beck's allegations but said veterans who receive hormone therapy at VA undergo mental and physical health evaluations to assess readiness for treatment.
"VA's mission is to meet the health care goals and needs of every veteran patient, recognizing that these goals and needs can change over time," VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes said.
M. David Rudd, a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of Memphis and expert on military mental health and particularly, suicide, does not know Beck, but said the case illustrates the importance of receiving mental health treatment from a provider well-versed in military culture as well as combat and sexual trauma.
According to Rudd, many recruits who enter the service are drawn to serve and be a part of the warrior culture but often have experienced trauma as young people. When this mindset and prior experience is combined with combat exposure or other military trauma, it can create "remarkable emotional and acute vulnerability" that may warrant expert behavioral health treatment, Rudd said.
"This really is a period in which you need to receive good competent care, particularly if you are sorthing through issues of sexual and gender identity," Rudd said.
In the past several years, many states have enacted or considered passing laws limiting medical treatment for transgender youth or barring student athletes from playing on teams that don't match their listed gender at birth.
Some states have enacted laws that prohibit state Medicaid from paying for gender transition and prohibited class discussions on gender identity in schools.
Parents and advocates for LGBTQ youth say these laws further stigmatize their children, who are at higher risk for mental health conditions, including depression, and suicide. According to The Trevor Project, a research and advocacy group for gay young people, LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers.
Beck retired from the military in 2011. Prohibitions were first lifted on transgender military service in 2016 when when President Barack Obama allowed transgender personnel to serve openly under their preferred gender. In 2017, President Donald Trump tweeted that transgender personnel would no longer be allowed to serve; his announcement was followed by a 2018 policy that barred those with gender dysphoria -- a medical diagnosis for confusion and distress over gender identity -- from serving.
Starbuck's conversation with Beck and his fiancee contains thoughts and opinions that some listeners may find offensive or disturbing including discussions about teaching critical race theory and transgender instruction.
Beck said he knows his announcement will draw ire from critics but wanted to speak out against what he sees is a pharmaceutical and medical industry preying on the young and vulnerable.
"I destroyed my life 10 years ago and I'm probably destroying my life now," Beck said. "My little history got exacerbated, it got huge and I fell down this hole."
Rudd suggested anyone seeking mental health treatment for military trauma exposure find a provider who is well-versed in the military experience and culture, asking about their experience, training and track record.
He added that veterans should not assume that VA physicians have experience treating military psychiatric training.
"In this case, [finding] someone who is comfortable and familiar with the landscape of working with somebody with sexual and gender identity questions is really important. That is a relatively complex process to navigate, particularly in the context of, of somebody who has served at the highest level in a military system, somebody who has been an operator and warrior culture, that in and of itself is remarkably challenging," Rudd said.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a comment from the VA.
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.
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